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Pope slams economic 'tyranny,' urges mercy for poor

Pope Francis has denounced unfettered capitalism in a manifesto for his papacy, beseeching global leaders to fight poverty. He also told priests to venture into "dirty" streets to minister to world's poor and oppressed.

Eight months after being elected as the Roman Catholic Church's new head, Pope Francis on Tuesday issued his first major document authored alone by denouncing global economic "tyranny" and calling for humane renewal from a church more governed through decentralism.

"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," the pontiff wrote in his 84-page manifesto, entitled Evangelii Gaudium.

The phase "thou shalt not" was also applicable in a modern world of growing unequality and "relentless" economic practices, he said. "Such an economy kills."

Themes collated

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said Francis wrote the bulk of the document in August. The "apostolic exhortation" bundles many of the themes the Argentine-born Jorge Mario Bergoglio has raised since his papal election in March.

This time, Francis goes further in his criticism of the global economic system by urging politicians to "attack the structural causes of inequality" and strive to provide work, healthcare and education to all.

"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 2 points?," the pontiff asked

He said there would be "no solution" to world ills until "the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality."

Collision course

Catholic reform expert and Italian theologian Massimo Faggioli said the "message sets Pope Francis on a collision course with neo-liberal Catholic thought, especially in the United States."

Francis, who has shunned pomp, initiated reform of the Vatican bank, and lives simply in a Rome guest house, said he wanted to move beyond a church "turned into a museum piece" belonging to a "select few" and avoid disjointed moral doctrines. Mercy was paramount, he said, and what counted was a church that welcomed the faithful.

Cooperation among religions

Francis also stressed cooperation among religions, quoting the late Pope John Paul II's idea of closer ties with other Christian churches and consultations with Jews and Muslims.

He said he "humbly" asked Islamic countries "to grant Christians freedom to worship and to practice their faith."

Francis restated the Vatican's opposition to abortion, but added that the church had "done little" to support women "in very difficult situations."

More scope for women?

In a potential hint at reform in the Vatican's male-dominated world, Pope Francis called for a "more incisive female presence in the Church," especially "where important decisions are made."

Tuesday's publication is the second major work issued during Pope Francis' term. July's encyclical The Light of Faith was however written almost entirely by his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

ipj/rc (dpa, AP, Reuters)