As a Roman Catholic, it's tremendously depressing when I see the Pope sending such a misguided message to the developing world:
Rich countries bent on power and profit have mercilessly "plundered and sacked" Africa and other poor regions and exported to them the "cynicism of a world without God," Pope Benedict writes in his first book.
The Pope also condemns drug trafficking and sexual tourism, saying they are signs of a world brimming with "people who are empty" yet living among abundant material goods...
In the 400-page book, called "Jesus of Nazareth," the Pope offers a modern application of Jesus's parable of the Good Samaritan, who stopped to help a man who had been robbed by thieves when others, including a priest, had not.
"The current relevance of the parable is obvious," the Pope writes.
"If we apply it to the dimensions of globalised society today, we see how the populations of Africa have been plundered and sacked and this concerns us intimately," the Pope says in his book, which comes out on April 16, his 80th birthday.
He drew a link between the lifestyle of people in the developed world and the dire conditions of people in Africa.
"We see how our lifestyle, the history that involved us, has stripped them naked and continues to strip them naked," he writes.
The German Pope, who has condemned the effects of colonialism before, said rich countries had also hurt poor countries spiritually by belittling or trying to wipe out their own cultural and spiritual traditions...
Let's begin by stipulating that there's truth in what the Pope says: there was lots of plundering of the lesser-developed world by the advanced west. That is not the cause of (physical) poverty in Africa and elsewhere now, however. The central problem is the pervasiveness of political and economic systems and policies that discourage private investment and wealth generation. And rather than encourage people to believe that they are poor because they are being taken advantage of, the Pope would do well to give a balanced view - which notes the continued support that the United States and other western nations for anti-poverty efforts, AIDS care, humanitarian relief, and other worthwhile causes.
I have great respect for the statements of the Pope on all matters concerning faith and religion. It's a shame that he gives me little reason to take seriously his statements about politics and economics.
Update: After reading the excerpt printed in Corriere Della Serra, Philo suggests I was too hasty. It appears that the story I linked suggests that the Pope said a lot more than he really did. A translation is provided in the comments:
The reality of the parable is obvious. If we apply it to the dimensions of globalised society, we see how the populations of Africa that find themselves stripped and robbed concern us closely. Then we see how these are "next" to us; we also see that our way of life, the history in which we are coinvolved, has stripped them and continues to strip them. In this is comprised above all the fact that we have wounded them spiritually. Rather than give them God, the God near to us in Christ, and receiving likewise from their traditions all that is precious and grand and carrying those to completion, we have brought them the cynicism of a world without God, in which only power and profit count; we have destroyed the moral criteria so that corruption and a will to power robbed of scruples become something glaring. And this holds not only for Africa. Yes, we are obliged to give material aid, and we are obliged to examine our means of life. But we give entirely too little if we give only matter. And do we not find also within ourselves the robbed and victimised man? The victims of drugs, of traffic in persons, of sex tourism, people destroyed in their intimate essence that are empty in spite of our abundance of material goods?