Pope Francis has criticised a global economic system that “idolised” money, saying it was behind suffering and unemployment as he visited the struggling Italian island of Sardinia.
Francis, at the start of a day-long trip to the Sardinian capital, Cagliari, put aside his prepared text at a meeting with unemployed workers, including miners.
“I find suffering here… it weakens you and robs you of hope,” he said on Sunday. “Excuse me if I use strong words, but where there is no work there is no dignity.”
The pope, who later celebrated Mass for about 300,000 people outside the city’s cathedral, told them: “We don’t want this globalised economic system which does us so much harm. Men and women have to be at the centre [of an economic system] as God wants, not money.”
“The world has become an idolator of this god called money,” he said.
Francis ended his improvised speech with a prayer asking God to “give us work and teach us to fight for work”.
‘A world choice’
The crowd of about 20,000 people in a square near the city port chanted while the pope was speaking. They cheered each time he spoke of the rights of workers and the personal devastation caused by joblessness.
Francis said his own family had to emigrate from Italy to Argentina and lost everything during the Great Depression.
Sardinia’s coast is famous for its idyllic beaches, exclusive resorts and seaside palatial residences of some of the world’s richest people, including former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and a host of Hollywood actors.
But much of the island, particularly its large cities and the vast agricultural and industrial interior, has been blighted by the economic crisis, with factories closed and mines operating at low capacity.
Cagliari has a youth unemployment rate of about 51 percent.
The pope made clear that his assessment was not limited to the local situation.
“It is not a problem of Italy and Europe… it is the consequence of a world choice, of an economic system that brings about this tragedy, an economic system that has at its centre an idol which is called money,” he said to the cheers of the crowd.
Francis said he did not want the crowd to see him as a smiling “cordial manager of the Church who comes here and says to you ‘have courage'”.