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Friends, in the second reading at Mass this weekend, the letter of St James warns those who are rich while others languish without the basic necessities of life. The reading brings into sharp relief the social role of property and the common destination of created goods. Below are extracts from Pope Francis’ encyclical ‘Fratelli Tutti’ which repeats Church teaching that upholds the right to private property but with limits.

“Not to share our wealth with the poor is to rob them and take away their livelihood. The riches we possess are not our own, but theirs as well” (St John Chrysostom).

“When we provide the needy with their basic needs, we are giving them what belongs to them, not to us” (St Gregory the Great).

“The Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute or inviolable, and has stressed the social purpose of all forms of private property. The principle of the common use of created goods is the first principle of the whole ethical and social order…The right to private property can only be considered a secondary natural right, derived from the principle of the universal destination of created goods. This has concrete consequences that ought to be reflected in the workings of society. Yet it often happens that secondary rights displace primary and overriding rights, in practice making them irrelevant’ (Fratelli Tutti, 120).


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