Pope Francis Challenges Elite on Poverty

World Economic Forum speech calls for action from super-rich.

Pope Francis attends a solemn mass to commemorate the Feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6, 2014, at St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.
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Pope Francis challenged the wealthy global elite at the World Economic Forum to remember charity and deeper meaning in their business lives to "ensure that humanity is served by wealth and not ruled by it."

[READ: President Obama to Visit Pope Francis in March]

Cardinal Peter Turkson read the pope's speech on Tuesday during the summit in Davos, Switzerland, which was attended by 2,500 invite-only elites, CEOs and heads of state from 100 countries, including Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

"Business is – in fact – a vocation, and a noble vocation, provided that those engaged in it see themselves challenged by a greater meaning in life," the pope's speech said. "It is intolerable that thousands of people continue to die every day from hunger, even though substantial quantities of food are available, and often simply wasted. Likewise, we cannot but be moved by the many refugees seeking minimally dignified living conditions, who not only fail to find hospitality, but often, tragically, perish in moving from one place to another."

Fears about the super-wealthy not doing enough to support the poor also came from Oxfam International. The development nonprofit published a report on Monday claiming that partially due to tax-dodging, 85 of the richest people in the world control the same amount of wealth as half of the world's population combined. The White House announced on Tuesday that President Barack Obama will travel to Italy on March 27 to meet with Pope Francis for the first time, during a European tour.

[ALSO: Pope Benedict XVI Defrocked Nearly 400 Priests in 2 Years for Molesting Children]

Unemployment and health care seem likely to be on the discussion agenda in light of the pope's advocacy against poverty since he became pontiff. In his first official writing as high pontiff in November, Pope Francis challenged the financial status quo and called trickle-down theories of economics "a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power."

"In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule," the pope said in November.

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