Fairly redistribute wealth, pope urges

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis called Friday for governments to redistribute wealth and benefits to the poor in a new spirit of generosity to help curb the “economy of exclusion” that is taking hold today.

Francis made the appeal during a speech to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the heads of major U.N. agencies who met in Rome this week.

Latin America’s first pope has frequently lashed out at the injustices of capitalism and the global economic system. On Friday, Francis called for the United Nations to promote a “worldwide ethical mobilization” of solidarity with the poor.

He said a more equal form of economic progress can be had through “the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the state, as well as indispensable cooperation between the private sector and civil society.” Francis urged the U.N. to promote development goals that attack the root causes of poverty and hunger, protect the environment and ensure dignified labor for all.

Friday’s audience came just days after the Holy See was battered in a second round of grilling by a U.N. committee over its record of handling priestly sex abuse. Neither the pope nor Ban spoke of the issue. Francis did refer to another topic at the U.N. hearings: the church’s opposition to abortion, which U.N. committee members have criticized as an impediment to women’s access to reproductive health care.

Francis called for respect for life “from conception to natural death” and his denunciation of the “culture of death” echoed previous papal exhortations against abortion.

During the meeting, Ban invited Francis to speak to the United Nations. The Vatican hasn’t confirmed any such trip, but Francis is widely expected to visit the U.S. in September 2015 to participate in a church meeting on families in Philadelphia, making a U.N. stop likely.

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