Pope Urges EU to Fight Wealth Gap as Much as Bond Spreads

Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI delivers his annual state of the world address at the Regia Hall at the Vatican. Photographer: Stefano Carofei/Vatican Pool via Getty Images

Pope Benedict XVI called on European leaders to spur economic growth by countering the wealth gaps between their countries with the same determination used to reduce the “spreads” among member state’s borrowing costs.

“If the differential index between financial rates represents a source of concern, the increasing differences between those few who grow ever richer and the many who grow hopelessly poorer, should be a cause for dismay,” he said in an address to diplomats at the Vatican today. “It is a question of refusing to be resigned to a ‘spread’ in social well-being, while at the same time fighting one in the financial sector.”

The 85-year-old pontiff and other leading figures of the Catholic Church often use financial terms, concepts and references in speeches on the state of the economy. In 2010, Benedict called on businessmen to put profits earned from production and services back into the “real economy” rather than seeking a “quick return on the financial markets.” The year before, Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone said that free-market economics legitimized greed, citing the 1987 movie “Wall Street” and its famous line that “greed is good, greed is right.”

At the outset of the global financial crisis in November 2008, then Italian Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti said Benedict had pronounced a “prophecy” in a 1985 paper stating that a decline in ethics may “cause the laws of the market to collapse.” In his 2009 encyclical “Caritas in Veritate,” Latin for “Charity in Truth,” the pope laid out his thoughts on capitalism and ways out of the worst recession since World War II.

The European Union “requires far-sighted representatives capable of making the difficult choices necessary to rectify its economy and to lay solid foundations for growth,” the pope said today. “Alone, certain countries may perhaps advance more quickly, but together, all will certainly go further,” he said, referring to the risks of a break-up in the euro region.

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