ROME — Pope Francis is legendary for his passion for the poor, but in a new interview he insists he’s not driven by a Communist-inspired ideology, but by the cornerstones of the Christian faith and the Gospel.
“Caring for our neighbor, for those who are poor, who suffer in body and soul, for those who are in need: this is the touchstone,” the pontiff said.
“Is it pauperism?” he asked, referring to a system of dependence on charitable handouts. “No. It is the Gospel.”
The comments came in an interview with Italian Vatican writers Andrea Tornielli and Giacomo Galeazi for a yet-to-be published book titled “This Economy Kills.” Excerpts were released on Sunday by the Italian newspaper La Stampa.
In the interview, Francis says his economic rhetoric echoes teaching by Church fathers throughout Christian history, citing St. John Chrysostom, St. Francis of Assisi, and a famous line from the Gospel of Matthew: “I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was in prison, I was sick, I was naked, and you helped me, clothed me, visited me, took care of me.”
According to the pontiff, concern for the poor is “not an invention of Communism” but he warned that “it mustn’t be turned into some ideology, as has sometimes happened before in the course of history.”
Once famously blasted by American pundit Rush Limbaugh for advocating “pure Marxism,” Francis complained that he can’t quote the teachings of Church fathers from the first centuries without being accused of giving a Marxist homily.
The pontiff was critical of globalization, saying it’s a system perpetuated by a “throw-away culture” and that, even though global wellness has grown in absolute terms, “so has social disparity and new kinds of poverty have developed.”
“When at the core of the system we don’t have men but money, when money becomes an idol, men and women become nothing more than instruments of a social system dominated by profound unbalances,” he said.
Francis said that the global need to find a solution for poverty is something that can no longer be put on hold, and that without a solution, the other problems of the world won’t be solved, either.
The pope called for a more ethical economic system and more ethics in politics, saying that many of the world politicians who visit him at the Vatican are looking for ethical suggestions from him and other religious leaders.