TIME Religion

Pope: Inequality Can Lead to ‘Moral Destitution’

The pain of 'unjust social conditions' can be considered 'impending suicide,' says Pope Francis

The Pope said Tuesday that economic inequality can plunge people into a “moral destitution” that could threaten their lives.

In a Lenten message released by the Vatican, the pope said that “unjust social conditions” such as unemployment, poor healthcare and limited education can lead to a material, moral and spiritual destitution that “can be considered impending suicide.”

“How many are plunged into this destitution by unjust social conditions, by unemployment, which takes away their dignity as breadwinners, and by lack of equal access to education and health care,” Pope Francis writes. “In such cases, moral destitution can be considered impending suicide. This type of destitution, which also causes financial ruin, is invariably linked to the spiritual destitution which we experience when we turn away from God and reject his love.”

It’s not the first time that Pope Francis has called out the current economy as unjust. In November, the Pope called “unfettered capitalism” a “new tyranny” and said an economy of “exclusion and inequality” could be fatal.

In his message Tuesday, Pope Francis recommended Christians acknowledge and attempt to alleviate the poverty of others during Lent, which starts this year on March 5.

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