Pope hits out at financial speculators

Governments should help promote socially responsible investing, says Pope Francis, who has criticized financial speculation that "excludes and discards" and doesn't serve a common good.

"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," he said at a seminar on ethical investing in Vatican City on Monday.

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At the conference, Pope Francis branded the speculation of food prices as a "scandal" that seriously compromised access to food for people living in poverty. He called for an international framework that would combat a selfish economy, called on the rich to share their wealth and urged investors to link profit with solidarity.

Pope Francis.
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Pope Francis.

"It is important that ethics once again plays its due part in the world of finance and that markets serve the interests of peoples and the common good of humanity," he said.

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The pope's remarks will be spark interest in the concept of "impact investing," buying stakes in companies, organizations, and funds with the intention of generating some sort of social and environmental impact -- despite returns that might have more moderate yields than other investments.

Pope Francis added that investments of this sort are meant to have positive social repercussions on local communities, like the creation of more jobs, better access to energy, better education and increased productivity.

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His words regarding food price speculation adds to calls from campaign groups who have regularly lambasted banks and financial institutions that have earned huge profits from betting on food price fluctuations. Back in January, ahead of the beginning of the World Economic Forum in Davos, he challenged business leaders to put their wealth at the service of humanity and urged them to promote inclusive prosperity.