Pope Francis issued a strong call for world financial reform on Thursday, condemning a heartless "dictatorship of the economy" and saying the economic crisis had made life worse for millions in rich and poor countries.

"Money has to serve, not to rule," he told ambassadors in the first major speech about finance since his election in March in which he also urged states to take greater control of their economies and protect the weakest.

The economic crisis had created fear and desperation, diminished joy of life and increased violence and poverty as more people struggled to get by in "undignified" ways, the pope said.

There was a "need for financial reform along ethical lines that would produce in its turn an economic reform to benefit everyone," he added.

"We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal," he said.

The reference was to the Book of Exodus in the bible, when the Israelites worshipped a golden calf while Moses was at the top of Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments.

While Francis' predecessor Benedict also called for changes in economic systems, he did so in often dense intellectual language. Francis seemed to be expressing very personal views forged from his experience with the poor in Latin America.

Francis, who has said he wants the 1.2 billion-member Catholic Church to defend the poor and be more austere itself, urged more state control over economies.

"While the income of a minority is increasing exponentially, that of the majority is crumbling," he said.

"This imbalance results from ideologies which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and thus deny the right of control to states, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good," he added.


Speaking of financial markets he said: "A new, invisible and at times virtual, tyranny is established, one which unilaterally and irremediably imposes its own laws and rules."

In many cases, the value of people was judged by their ability to consume, he added.

The pope's comments add to growing expressions of concern about a global economic malaise that has left millions out of work or hanging on to insecure, short-term jobs.

Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, said his pontificate would side with the poor on social and economic issues.

"The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but the Pope has the duty, in Christ's name, to remind the rich to help the poor, to respect them, to promote them," he said.

Francis, who will visit a slum during his trip to Brazil in July, urged "those in power to be truly at the service of the common good of their peoples" financial leaders "to take account of ethics and solidarity".

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