Use wealth, power for common good, not to exploit others, pope says

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Wealth and power are meant to serve
the poor and the well-being of everyone, not to selfishly exploit others, Pope
Francis said.

When power loses that sense of service, it “turns
into arrogance and becomes control and subjugation,” he said during his
weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square Feb. 24.

But God is greater than people’s wickedness and
“sleazy games,” urging them to recognize their sins and repent, he

“How wonderful it would be if the powerful
exploiters today did the same” and changed their ways, the pope said to

During this Year of Mercy, the pope continued a series of
talks dedicated to divine mercy, looking specifically at the correct use of
wealth and power.

The Bible gives many accounts of kings and powerful
people as well as “their arrogance and abuse of power, too,” he said.

“Wealth and power are things that can be good and
useful for the common good if they are put at the service of the poor and
everyone with justice and charity,” he said.

“However, as often happens, when they are lived as a
privilege, with selfishness and arrogance, they become instruments of
corruption and death,” he said.

One example, he said, is seen in the story of King Ahab,
whose pagan wife, Jezebel, cooks up a scheme to have Naboth unfairly accused of
blasphemy and put to death so they can take possession of Naboth’s vineyard
after he refused to sell it.

The pope said the Old Testament account “is not a
story from another era. It’s about today, about the powerful who exploit the
poor, the people, in order to have more money. It’s the story about human
trafficking, slave labor, poor people paid under the table with the minimum in
order to enrich the powerful. It’s the story about corrupt politicians who want
more and more and more,” he said.

He said God cautions people about where wielding power
“without respect for life, without justice, without mercy” leads and
what happens when the hunger for power becomes insatiable.

For example, the prophet Isaiah, who “wasn’t a
communist,” the pope said, warns powerful landowners against always
accumulating more property as it will lead to their dwelling all alone, in

Pope Francis said no matter how much evil people are
capable of, God is always waiting and willing to let them turn their lives

“God saw this crime, but he knocks on Ahab’s
heart” anyway. With the prophet Elijah’s help, Ahab recognizes his sin,
mortifies himself and asks forgiveness — a story of enlightenment and
conversion that would be wonderful to see happen in the lives of powerful
people today who exploit others, the pope said.

God shows how “mercy can heal wounds and can change
history,” he said. “Divine mercy is stronger than human sin, it is
stronger, and this is the lesson of Ahab.”

True power and kingship are found in Christ, whose
“power is completely different. His throne is the cross. He isn’t a king
who kills, but the opposite: he gives life.”

“His going to everyone, especially the weakest, conquers
solitude and the fate of death, which is where sin leads,” the pope said.

With his tenderness and willingness to draw close to
sinners, Jesus leads sinners to a place of grace and forgiveness, he said.

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