Pope Benedict XVI, leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, has attacked the "unbridled pursuit of wealth and short term profit" as the root cause of poverty and the global food crisis at the expense of "the common good".
In his New Year message timed for World Peace Day on 1 January 2009, the pontiff says there is "a risk that in the world the rich will live in an ivory tower surrounded by a desert of poverty and degradation."
For the world of finance to focus on "short and very short term profit" poses "a threat to all, even for those who are able to reap benefits during periods of financial euphoria''.
The current global financial crisis has "demonstrated how financial activity is only focused on itself without any consideration of the long term, the common good." Finance has "lost its role as a bridge between the present and the future, in the creation of new production opportunities and employment in the long term."
The Pope calls for a "common code of ethics" in a globalised world in which the gap between rich and poor was widening instead of being narrowed.Globalization "must be seen as an opportunity to achieve something important in the battle against poverty and offer peace and justice resources which until now have been unthinkable."
Benedict says food shortages and high food prices are "not created by a lack of food as much as by the phenomenon of speculation and the inability of economic and political institutions to deal with needs and emergencies."
The pontiff urges governments to spend less on weapons of destruction and more on development, saying that "combating poverty means building peace".
In the message Pope Benedict says the "conscience of humanity" can no longer ignore economic differences that have become more marked even in the more advanced countries. The global financial system has proved to be "extremely fragile".
It is "experiencing the negative repercussions of a system of financial dealings - both national and global - based upon very short-term thinking, which aims at increasing the value of financial operations and concentrates on the technical management of various forms of risk".