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Priests and religious urged once again to live frugally

'Disciples must have nothing, not bread, not money in their bags,' archbishop tells meeting

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  • Joshua J. McElwee for National Catholic Reporter
  • Vatican City
  • March 12, 2014
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The Vatican office responsible for the approximately 900,000 priests and brothers and sisters in religious orders around the world called on them this weekend to re-evaluate their holdings of wealth and to issue critiques of the global market capitalist economy, calling it unjust to the world's neediest.

Holding a conference near the Vatican for some 500 treasurers of the global orders Saturday and Sunday, the Vatican office looked back to the earliest teachings of the church, calling on the religious to reject accumulation of goods in order to follow Jesus, "the poor man who lives in solidarity with the poor."

Those were the words of Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo, the secretary of the Vatican congregation, who in opening remarks also said, "Disciples must have nothing, not bread, not money in their bags."

Carballo continued, critiquing orders that have accumulated wealth over the years: "We always justify accumulation for the mission, but then that money doesn't arrive at the mission."

Accumulating such wealth, the archbishop said, "entails the danger of not being in the presence of God ... to lose the memory of God -- trust in him -- and forgetting about the poor."

Carballo's office, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, organized the first-of-its-kind summit at the request of Pope Francis.

Over some 15 talks during the two days, speakers selected by the office focused both on practical questions facing religious orders around the world -- particularly how to cope with extra property and assets in an age of dwindling vocations to religious life -- and on wider issues, like how religious should respond to disparities in the global economic system.

A constant theme during the event, held at Rome's Franciscan-run Pontifical University of St. Anthony, was criticism of the capitalist system, which several speakers called a "structure of sin" that purposefully does not attend to the needs of the poorest.

Outlining the church's response to the global economic system over the past several hundred years, one presenter, Stefano Zamagni, said it was "an unforgiveable mistake" that the church had not more openly critiqued the capitalist system.

Zamagni, a professor of economic politics at Italy's University of Bologna and a member of the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences, critiqued particularly the American model of capitalism, which he said allows people to exploit the world's resources to gather wealth and then only expects them to focus on charitable work once they are wealthy.

"A Christian just cannot accept this," Zamagni said. "It is not me saying this. It is the sacred Scriptures. We cannot accept this logic."

Full Story: Vatican office calls religious sisters, priests to live poorly, reject capitalism

Source: National Catholic Reporter

 

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