Pope Warns Catholics Against Risks of Accumulating
(from the Four County Catholic, November, 2004)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) - Pope John Paul II warned Catholics against the dangers of accumulating material riches and believing that wealth and power in life can somehow save one from death.
In a talk inspired by Psalm 49, the pope said that a man intent on gathering possessions risks becoming a “slave to avidity”
In a sunny, outdoor audience in St. Peter's Square Oct. 20, the pope read just a few sentences of his text in a voice that was robust but at times difficult to under-stand.
The pope used strong words to condemn the quest for riches?
“The rich man, clinging to his immense fortune, is convinced that he can dominate even death, the way he has dominated everything and everybody with money,” he said.
But “a profound obtuseness seizes man when he becomes a slave to avidity” he said in a departure from his prepared text. “Great wealth is not an advantage. In-deed, it can become a danger.”
The psalm invites people to reflect on “the malice of those who rush to accumulate material wealth” the pope's message said.
The psalmist, he said, uses financial terms to ad-monish that “no man can buy his own ransom or pay a price for his life”
The first part of the psalm describes a just man who must face “evil days” because “my wicked ensnarers ring me round.” The pope emphasized the just man's conclusion that man, “for all his splendor, if he have not prudence, resembles the beasts that perish.”
No matter how much a rich man is willing to pay to avoid death, he said, “his final destiny is inexorable.” He, “like all men and women, rich or poor, wise or foolish, must go to the tomb, just as other powerful men did, and will have to leave on this earth all that much-loved gold, all those idolized possession,” he said.
It is a theme “explored by all the cultures and all the spiritualities,” the pope wrote, adding that Jesus con-cludes that even though one lives in abundance, “his life doesn't depend on his possessions.”