Pope Francis said it was "increasingly intolerable" that the world's financial markets have the power to determine people's fate instead of being at the service of people's needs. He also criticized the way "the few derive immense wealth from financial speculation while the many are deeply burdened by the consequences."
The pope called on governments to create an investment market that has a positive impact on people's lives and to combat "an economy which excludes and discards" others. Pope Francis met on June 16 with experts taking part in a two-day conference in Rome on "impact investing," which promotes investing in companies, organizations and funds that will have a positive and measureable impact on communities and the environment.
The June 16-17 conference, "Investing in the Poor: How Impact Investing Can Serve the Common Good in Light of 'Evangelii Gaudium,'" was sponsored by Catholic Relief Services, the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
"It is important that ethics once again play its due part in the world of finance and that markets serve the interests of peoples and the common good of humanity," the pope said. "It is increasingly intolerable that financial markets are shaping the destiny of peoples rather than serving their needs, or that the few derive immense wealth from financial speculation while the many are deeply burdened by the consequences." The pope called the financial speculation on food prices "a scandal which seriously compromises access to food on the part of the poorest members of our human family."
Governments urgently need to promote "a market of high impact investments" in order to combat "an economy which excludes and discards." He said advancements in high-speed financial transactions are meaningful only if such technology "better serves the common good." The pope praised the conference's efforts to look for "timely and realistic strategies to ensure greater social equality" and recognized "impact investing as one emerging form of responsible investment."
"Impact investors are those who are conscious of the existence of serious unjust situations, instances of profound social inequality and unacceptable conditions of poverty affecting communities and entire peoples," he said.
In response, such investors will look for ways their resources can be used to promote the economic and social development of those most in need, especially "through investment funds aimed at satisfying basic needs associated with agriculture, access to water, adequate housing at reasonable prices, as well as with primary healthcare and educational services." The aim is to have a positive impact on local communities while offering investors returns that tend to be more moderate, he added.
The pope said there is a deep connection and "virtuous circle" between profit and solidarity, and Christians are called to rediscover "this precious and primordial unity" of profit and gift. He also asked that people never forget "the transience of earthly goods and to renew our commitment to serve the common good with love and with preference for the most poor and vulnerable."