Vatican City

Pope wants church to be poor to emulate St Peter

Pontiff continues drive to shed monetary shackles

Pope wants church to be poor to emulate St Peter

(By Kate Carisle) Vatican City, June 11 - Pope Francis said Tuesday that the Catholic Church should not seek to accumulate wealth, pointing out that St Peter did not have a bank account. "If you want to have a rich Church, then the Church ages, it has no life," Francis said in his homily during Mass at Saint Martha's House, the Vatican residence where he lives. The Argentine pontiff, who has endeared the faithful with his humble approach and his focus on the poor and needy since being elected in March's conclave, said the truth of the gospel should be announced with "simplicity and gratuitousness". "The Church is not an NGO. It is born of gratuitousness of which poverty is a sign," added the pope. "The poverty that must distinguish the Church saves us from becoming organizers, entrepreneurs. "The works of the Church must go forward and some are complex, but with a heart of poverty, not a heart of investment or of a businessman... "Saint Peter did not have a bank account and when he had to pay taxes, the Lord sent him to sea to fish a fish with a coin inside in order to pay". In his desire to see a "poor church" as he calls it, Francis has issued a number of reforms within the Vatican that include cutting the 25,000-euro allowance normally paid to members of the oversight commission of cardinals of the controversial Vatican Bank. He has also shed many of the regal vestments, such as the ermine cape and red shoes preferred by his predecessor Benedict XVI, and opts to live in the St Martha's House residence for travellers and Vatican staff instead of the papal apartments. He has blasted the way in which money had become an "idol" in the modern world and took a swipe at politicians and financiers who spurn ethics in their bid to accumulate wealth and power. A hard-hitting speech given to a group of ambassadors at the Vatican on May 21 gave further evidence that Francis is determined to make defending the weak and challenging a global economic system that allows high levels of poverty and inequality key elements of his papacy. He bemoaned the fact that "the majority of the men and women of our time continue to live daily in situations of insecurity, with dire consequences... People have to struggle to live and, frequently, to live in an undignified way". And he pinned the blame on "our relationship with money, and our acceptance of its power over ourselves and our society". "We have created new idols," Francis said. "The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal... "There is a need for financial reform along ethical lines that would produce in its turn an economic reform to benefit everyone. "I urge them to face this challenge with determination and farsightedness, taking account, naturally, of their particular situations. "Money has to serve, not to rule. The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but the Pope has the duty, in Christ's name, to remind the rich to help the poor, to respect them, to promote them. "The Pope appeals for disinterested solidarity and for a return to person-centred ethics in the world of finance and economics". He said the worldwide financial and economic crisis had highlighted the distortions of a system based on "ideologies which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation". Francis, who was elected the head of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics after Benedict XVI stepped down in February due to "advanced age", has not limited his scorn to the powers-that-be. "We cannot be part-time Christians!" the pontiff posted on the @Pontifex account, addressing Catholics of all demographics. "We should seek to live our faith at every moment of every day". The pope is the first pontiff ever to take his name from St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis, Italy and Assisi's patron, is known as the protector of the poor and humble.

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