On Wealth and Poverty
“Equal Distribution of Goods Is a Priority”
CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 23, 2007, (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
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Dear brothers and sisters!
This morning I visited the Diocese of Velletri of which I was the titular cardinal for several years. It was a familial encounter, which permitted me to relive past moments rich with spiritual and pastoral experiences. During the solemn Eucharistic celebration, in speaking about the liturgical texts, I was able to reflect on the correct use of earthly goods, a theme that St. Luke the evangelist, in various ways, has brought to our attention over the last few Sundays.
In the parable of the dishonest, yet sharp steward, Christ teaches his disciples the best way to use money and material riches; share them with the poor and in this way earn their friendship, in view of the Kingdom of heaven. “Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon,” says Jesus, “so that when it fails they may receive your into the eternal habitations” (Luke 16:9).
Money is not “dishonest” in itself, but more than anything else it can close man up within a blind egoism. What is needed therefore is a sort of “conversion” of economic goods: Instead of using them for one’s own interests, we need to also think of the necessities of the poor, imitating Christ himself, who, wrote St. Paul, “Though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). It seems to be a paradox: Christ did not enrich us with his wealth, but with his poverty, that is with his love that motivated him to give himself completely to us.
This could open up a vast and complex field of reflection on the theme of wealth and poverty, even on the world stage, in which two rationales regarding economics come face to face: the logic of profit and that of the equal distribution of goods, and one does not contradict the other, provided that their relationship is well-ordered. Catholic social doctrine has always sustained that the equal distribution of goods is a priority. Profit is naturally legitimate and, in a just measure, necessary for economic development.
John Paul II wrote in “Centesimus Annus”: “The modern business economy has positive aspects. Its basis is human freedom exercised in the economic field, just as it is exercised in many other fields (No. 32). However, he adds, capitalism is not considered the only valid model of economic organization (No. 35). The crises of hunger and the environment are denouncing, with growing evidence, that the logic of profit, if it prevails, increases the disproportion between rich and poor and a harmful exploitation of the planet. When the logic of sharing and solidarity prevails on the other hand, it is possible to correct the course of action and orient it toward proportional and sustainable development.
Mary Most Holy, who in the Magnificat proclaims: the Lord “has fed the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty” (Luke 1:53), help all Christians to use with evangelical wisdom, that is, with generous solidarity, earthly goods, and inspire governments and economists with farsighted strategies that favor the authentic progress of all peoples.