Pope Francis has attacked unfettered capitalism as “a new tyranny” and urged global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality, in a new document setting out a platform for his papacy and calling for a renewal of the Catholic Church.
The 84-page apostolic exhortation is the first major work he has authored alone as Pope and makes official many views he has aired in sermons and remarks since he became the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years in March.
In it, Francis went further than previous comments criticising the global economic system, attacking the “idolatry of money”, and urged politicians to “attack the structural causes of inequality” and strive to provide work, healthcare and education to all.
He also called on the rich to share their wealth. “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills,” Francis wrote.
“How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”
The Pope said renewal of the Church could not be put off and said the Vatican and its entrenched hierarchy “also need to hear the call to pastoral conversion”.
“I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security,” he wrote.
In his frank and often funny style, the Argentine Jesuit chastised priests for complacency, giving them a lesson on preparing homilies that don’t put church-goers to sleep.
He also reminded them that confession shouldn’t be “torture,” and told them to get out of their sacristies, get their shoes muddy, get involved in the lives of their flock and not be defeatist “sourpusses”.
Italian theologian Massimo Faggioli greeted the work as “the manifesto of Francis” while veteran Vatican analyst John Thavis called it a “Magna Carta for church reform”.
“The message on poverty sets Pope Francis on a collision course with neo-liberal Catholic thought, especially in the United States,” said Mr Faggioli, an expert on the Second Vatican Council and Church reform.
Other Catholic analysts added that progressive clergy would bristle at Francis’s rejection of women priests, though it leaves open the door to women taking other “decision-making” positions in the Church.
Called Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), the exhortation is presented in Francis’s simple preaching style, distinct from the more academic writings of former popes, and stresses the Church’s central mission of spreading the gospel.
Economic inequality features as one of the issues Francis is most concerned about, and the 76-year-old pontiff calls for an overhaul of the financial system and warns that inequality leads to violence. He denied constructing a populist argument, and called for action “beyond a simple welfare mentality”.
He added: “I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor.”
Since his election, Francis has set an example for austerity in the Church, living in a Vatican guesthouse rather than the Apostolic Palace, travelling in a Ford Focus, and last month suspending a bishop who spent a fortune on his luxury residence.
The former Jorge Mario Bergoglio took the name Francis after the saint from Assisi who made a vow of poverty.