Francis outlines vision of ethical market system just before US trip

Rome — Pope Francis has outlined a succinct but expansive vision for an alternative, more ethically concerned market-capitalist system, just days before his first visit to the overwhelmingly market-friendly United States.

In an audience Saturday with workers and families of a Rome-area cooperative bank, the pontiff urged those present to use their work to grow a more honest, equal and fair economy.

Above all, the pope said, bankers should promote an ethical use of money "where capital does not command over people, but people over capital."

Summarizing an earlier February speech to a confederation of cooperative banks, Francis asked the workers of the Rome bank to do six specific things:

  • "Continue to be a motor that develops that weakest parts of your local communities and civil society, thinking above all of young people without work and aiming for the growth of new cooperative businesses;"
  • "Worry yourselves with the rapport between the economy and social justice, maintaining at the center the dignity and the worth of persons;"
  • "Facilitate and encourage family life, and propose cooperative and mutualistic solutions for the management of the common good, that cannot become the property of the few nor the object of speculation;"
  • "Promote an ethical and social use of money, in the style of a true cooperative, where capital does not command over people, but people over capital;"
  • "As a fruit of all this, grow the economy of honesty. To you is asked not only to be honest -- this is normal -- but to spread and give root to honesty in all environments;"
  • "Participate actively in globalization, so that it may be a globalization of solidarity;"

​"Every cooperative is called to apply these lines to its own specific mission," Francis told the group. "It can happen that a cooperative becomes a great business. But this is not the most important challenge."

"The most important challenge is continuing growth to be a true cooperative, in fact, becoming it still more," he told them. "This means fostering the active participation of your members -- to do together and to do for others."

"Naturally, healthy and prudent management always matters for all," said the pope. "To have a bank is a delicate vocation, that requires great rigor. But a cooperative bank must have something more: Striving to humanize the economy, uniting efficiency with solidarity."

Francis told the cooperative bankers that their bank "can be the nucleus around which you build a great network to grow business that gives work, sustains families, experiments with micro-credit and other ways of humanizing the economy."

The pontiff ended the audience with a bit of a joke.

After giving his usual request -- "Please, do not forget to pray for me" -- Francis added: "It remains clear, eh? I didn't ask for money -- I asked for prayers!"

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

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