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Pope attacks megasalaries and wealth gap

Pope Francis said in the first peace message of his pontificate that huge salaries and bonuses are symptoms of an economy based on greed and inequality, and he called again for nations to narrow the wealth gap.

In his message for the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Peace, marked around the world on Jan. 1, he also called for sharing of wealth and for nations to shrink the gap between rich and poor, more of whom are getting only "crumbs."

"The grave financial and economic crises of the present time ... have pushed man to seek satisfaction, happiness and security in consumption and earnings out of all proportion to the principles of a sound economy," he said.

(Read more: Pope finds a new enemy—capitalism)

Pope Francis on his way to attend the Via Crucis during World Youth Day celebrations in July in Rio de Janeiro.
Buda Mendes | Getty Images
Pope Francis on his way to attend the Via Crucis during World Youth Day celebrations in July in Rio de Janeiro.

"The succession of economic crises should lead to a timely rethinking of our models of economic development and to a change in lifestyles," he said.

Francis, who was named Time magazine's Person of the Year on Wednesday, has urged his own Church to be more fair, frugal and less pompous and to be closer to the poor and suffering.

His message will be sent to national leaders, international organizations such as the United Nations, and NGOs.

Titled "Fraternity, the Foundation and Pathway to Peace", the message also attacked injustice, human trafficking, organized crime and the weapons trade as obstacles to peace.

Anger at payouts in the multimillions for executives has swept across the globe as the economic crisis has deepened and the gap between the super-rich and the poor has widened.

But last month, Swiss voters rejected a proposal to cap the salaries of top executives at 12 times that of a company's lowest wage, heeding warnings from industry leaders that the measure could harm the country's economy.

Crumbs

Francis said many places in the world were seeing a "serious rise" in inequality between people living side by side.

He attacked the "widening gap between those who have more and those who must be content with the crumbs", calling on governments to implement "effective policies" to guarantee people's fundamental rights, including access to capital, services, educational resources, healthcare and technology.

(Read more: Pope Francis attacks 'tyranny' of unfettered capitalism)

The new pope's style is characterized by frugality. He shunned the spacious papal apartment in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace to live in a small suite in a Vatican guest house, and he prefers a Ford Focus to the traditional Mercedes.

A champion of the downtrodden, he visited the island of Lampedusa in southern Italy in July to pay tribute to hundreds of migrants who had died crossing the sea from North Africa.

(Read more: Pope Francis named Time magazine Person of the Year)

Last month, in a document seen as a manifesto of his papacy, he attacked unfettered capitalism as "a new tyranny."

Since his election in March as the first non-European pope in 1,300 years, the Argentinian has several times condemned the "idolatry of money" and said it was a depressing sign of the times that a homeless person dying of exposure on the street was no longer news but a slight fall in the stock market is.

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