Pope Francis: Money Is ‘the Devil’s Dung’

Pope Francis holds an iimage of Our Lady of Aparecida during the Holy Mass at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, in Aparecida, state of Sao Paulo, on July 24, 2013. Pope Francis warned Catholics on Wednesday against "ephemeral idols" like money at his first public mass in …
LUCA ZENNARO/AFP/Getty

ROME — Pope Francis returned to his criticisms of the economy Sunday, saying that money is “dishonest wealth,” also known as “the devil’s dung.”

Speaking in Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican, the pontiff told the tens of thousands of pilgrims and visitors to beware of riches in reference to the gospel reading of the day.

“The key to understanding this story lies in Jesus’ invitation at the end of the parable,” the pope said. “‘I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.’”

“This seems a bit confusing, but it is not,” he added. “‘Dishonest wealth’ is money, also called ‘the devil’s dung,’ and in general, material goods.”

“Wealth can drive people to erect walls, create divisions, and discriminate,” Francis continued.

“Jesus, on the contrary, invites his disciples to change course: ‘Make friends with riches,’” he said. “It is an invitation to learn how to transform goods and riches into relationships, because people are worth more than things and count more than the wealth they possess.”

Sunday’s speech was not the first time that Pope Francis has used colorful language in speaking about money, or even for the reference to “the devil’s dung,” a quotation from Saint Basil the Great.

“It is not easy to talk about money,” Francis said in an address to the Italian Confederation of Cooperatives in 2015. “Money is the devil’s dung of the devil! When money becomes an idol, it rules over a person’s choices. And then it ruins a person and condemns him, turning him into a slave.”

The pope called for a “creative imagination” to find new methods, attitudes and tools to combat the “culture of waste,” in which the world is immersed, “fueled by the powers that govern the economic and financial policies of the globalized world, whose center is the god of money.”

Likewise, in a homily given in September 2013, the pope used the same expression to decry wealth.

“Money becomes an idol and you worship it. This is why Jesus tells us: ‘You cannot serve the idol of money and the living God.’ Either one or the other.” Here, too, Francis called money “the devil’s dung,” insisting that “it turns us into idolaters, sickens our mind with pride and makes us enthusiasts of frivolous things that pull us away from the faith.”

Nonetheless, the pope has also recognized the necessity of capital to make financial enterprises run.

After outlining a series of tasks for the members of cooperatives, the pope acknowledged: “To do all these things requires money!”

He noted that according to Catholic social teaching, “profit is not a god, but only a compass and a yardstick of business.”

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