VATICAN CITY - The global crisis shows that the world needs economic ethics and new rules so the financial system benefits all humanity, Pope Benedict said on Monday in his keynote speech for the New Year.
In a wide-ranging address, the pontiff also called for the end of violence across North Africa and the Middle East, and denounced attacks against religious freedom.
“The present moment is sadly marked by a profound disquiet and the various crises - economic, political and social - are a dramatic expression of this,” he told diplomats in what has come to be known as his yearly “state of the world” speech.
He said the “grave and disturbing developments of the global economic and financial crisis” that had started in industrialised countries were now infecting the world and leaving many, particularly the young, disoriented and frustrated.
Adding a personal touch to appeals that have been made in recent Vatican documents, Benedict called for an injection of ethics in the way the world economy is run.
“The crisis can and must be an incentive to reflect on human existence and on the importance of its ethical dimension,” he said, addressing diplomats from nearly 180 countries in French.
Changes in the economy should not only be “an effort to stem private losses or to shore up national economies, but to give ourselves new rules that ensure that all can lead a dignified life and develop their abilities for the benefit of the community as a whole”.
Since the downturn began, Benedict has often said the lack of sufficient ethics in the world of finance could not be overlooked, and that economic decisions should be based on what advances the common good rather than individual gain.
A major document issued in October by the Vatican’s justice and peace department called for sweeping reforms of the world economy and the creation of an ethical global authority to regulate financial markets.
In other parts of his speech to the diplomats accredited to the Holy See, Benedict spoke of the “Arab Spring” uprisings and threw his weight behind calls for democratic and peaceful change in the region.
He called for “the recognition of the inalienable dignity of each human person and of his or her fundamental rights” in countries in that region. He said respect for the person “must lead to the end of all violence.”
Benedict said he hoped that the presence of Arab League observers in Syria would help to end the bloodshed there, and urged the international community to do more to bring about peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
He said religious freedom was under threat in various places in Africa and Asia and again denounced attacks against Christians such as those in Nigeria, where Christmas Day bombings against churches killed at least 27 people.
The pope, who visited Africa last year, called such attacks “religiously motivated terrorism”, and said they were “the antithesis of religion” and contributed to its destruction.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)