He cautioned that "a crematory logic of the market" makes credit cheaper and more accessible for those who are wealthier, yet more expensive and difficult for those who have less resources "to the point of leaving the poorest sections of the population in the hands of unscrupulous users."
At an international level, the risk is that financing poorer countries can easily become "a usurious activity," Francis said, adding that even if one accepts the creation of business procedures accessible to all and which benefit everyone, "a generous and abundant gratitude will always be needed."
Intervention from the State will also be needed in order to "protect certain collective goods and ensure the satisfaction of fundamental human necessities," Pope Francis said, noting how his predecessor St. John Paul II insisted that ignoring this aspect would lead to "an idolatry of the market."
Francis also pointed to the need for honesty, because there is always a danger of corruption, which is "the destruction of the social fabric under the guise of law enforcement. It's the law of the jungle disguised as apparent social rationality. It's the deception and exploitation of the weakest or less informed."
Corruption isn't a vice limited to politics, but also pervades in many businesses, in communication and in social organizations, he said.
One of the conditions necessary for social progress "is the absence of corruption," he said, noting how some businesses might feel pressured to fall into blackmail and extortion, justifying themselves by thinking they are saving their business and their workers, or that the business will grow to the point they will be able to free themselves from the threat.
Businesses can also fall into the temptation "of thinking that this is something everyone does, and that small acts of corruption aimed at obtaining small advantages have not great importance," Francis said, cautioning that "any intent of corruption, active or passive, is to begin to adore the god of money."
The Pope then turned to the importance of fraternity, saying business activities must always include "the element of gratitude."
"Relations of justice between leaders and workers must always be respected and demanded by all parties," but it's also true that a business is a work community in which "all merit respect and fraternal appreciation" by their superiors, colleagues and subordinates.
This respect shouldn't be limited to just within the workplace, but must also extend to the local community where the company is physically located, Pope Francis said, adding that all legal and economic relations of the company "must be moderate, surrounded in an environment of respect and fraternity."
Pope Francis then turned to the topic of migrants and refugees, saying this attitude of fraternity must also extend to the multitudes seeking protection and a better life.
Both the Holy See and the local churches "are making extraordinary efforts to deal effectively with the causes of this situation" by seeking to pacify the regions and countries at war while also promoting a spirit of welcome, he said.
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However, the Pope acknowledged that "you do not always get everything you want," and asked participants to help in encouraging governments to "give up any kind of war activity," and to collaborate in creating opportunities for decent, stable work in countries of origin and of arrival, both for the local population and the immigrants.
Immigration, he said, "must continue to be an important factor of development."
Francis concluded his speech by pointing to the Gospel passage in which Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector of Jericho, climbed a tree in order to be able to see Jesus. When he met the Lord's gaze, this led "to a deep conversion."
"I hope that this conference is like a sycamore of Jericho, a tree which can be climbed by all," he said, so that, "through scientific discussion of the aspects of business activity, all may meet the gaze of Jesus and that from there result effective guidelines in order to make the activity of all their companies always and effectively promote the common good."
Elise Harris was senior Rome correspondent for CNA from 2012 to 2018.