ROME — Pope Francis repeatedly has blasted corruption and profiteering, and he was at it again on Sunday, condemning corruption twice in a span of a few hours, among other things saying it’s more addictive than drugs.
“Some behave with corruption as with drugs: thinking they can use it and stop using it when they want. It begins slowly: a tip from here, a bribe from there … And between this and that, slowly, one loses his [or her] freedom,” Francis said at his noontime Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square.
The pontiff was speaking of corruption in general, putting politicians, public employees, private companies and citizens in the same bag.
“Corruption produces addiction, and it generates poverty, exploitation, suffering. And how many victims there are in the world today!” he said.
Francis’ reflections, both at the Angelus and earlier in the day in a Mass for the 200th anniversary of the Gendarmeria, meaning the Vatican’s police force, were rooted in Sunday’s Gospel, which tells the story of a bad steward who falsifies documents of the debts owed to his employer to gain the friendship of those he helps.
This administrator, the pope said at the Angelus, “is not presented as a model to be imitated, but as an example of cunning.”
It’s a case of corruption, he continued, that as many others constitutes the wrong path, one of sin, “even if it’s the most comfortable one to go through.”
Talking to the gendarmes earlier in the day, Francis noted that while in the Gospel the master praises the steward for his “cleverness” after realizing his administrator had been stealing from him, it’s “a completely worldly and strongly sinful cleverness, which does a lot of bad.”
However, he said that there is a type of Christian cleverness that knows how to do things in a wise and honest way, rather than a worldly one. To be “wise as serpents but pure as doves,” he said, “is a grace from the Holy Spirit that we must ask for.”
The Mass for the Gendarmes was celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica. In his homily, the pontiff thanked the corps for their “vocation,” acknowledging that they’re often underpaid.
He also recognized that “many times you must fight against temptations of those who want to buy you,” and said he is proud that the Gendarme style is one of saying “’no, I have nothing to do with this.”
“Crooks love the scam and hate honesty. Crooks love bribes, agreements done in the dark. This is worse than anything, because he believes he’s being honest,” the pope told members of the Vatican Gendarme Sept. 18.
In his homily, he warned against modern crimes linked to exploitation and corruption, saying that throughout the world many people today are victims of large industries of slave labor.
“In the world today, slave labor is a management style,” Francis told the Gendarmes. The crook “loves money, loves wealth,” and with no concern or second though “trample on the poor.”
In both addresses the pontiff also regretted that corruption “pervades everywhere,” and that cronies and corrupt people are as present today as they were in Jesus’ times.
Underlining the quote which says “no one can serve two masters,” meaning God and money, he said people are called to choose between two paths: “honesty and dishonest, fidelity and unfaithfulness, egoism and altruism, good and evil.”
The invitation from the Gospel, he said, is to make a choice between the “Him and the spirit of the world, between the logic of corruption and greed and that of righteousness and sharing.”
After the Angelus prayer, Francis also asked the faithful from around the world to join him in the interreligious prayer that will take place in Assisi this Tuesday, with the presence of leader’s of the world’s main religions.
Organized yearly by the Community of Saint’Egidio, the meeting this year marks the 30th anniversary of the first time it was celebrated, back in 1986, led by Pope John Paul II.
Among those participating in the prayer will be the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I; the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby; the Syro-Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Efrem II. There will also be representatives of Islam, Judaism and Buddhism.
The great absentee will be the Dalai Lama, who played a key role in the original Assisi gathering. Longtime Vatican watches believe this was a conscious decision, done in an attempt to avoid conflicts with China which might deter ongoing conversations with Rome.
Beijing is one of the few countries with which the Holy See has no diplomatic ties, and going there is a life-long dream of Francis.
Speaking about the upcoming encounter, Francis said that “today, more than ever, we have a need for peace in this war [being fought] everywhere. Let’s pray for peace!”