Pope Francis plays golf with Bill Gates, says moral fervor outweighs economic worries

“I am an immigrant. I am a refugee,” Pope Francis told tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square after playing golf with three billionaire American industrialists. “I want to see every person, person more precisely, a person who is a son of God and asks for dignity.”

The struggle between “respect for person” and “the economy at its worst” continues to roil the church, the pope told a crowd of an estimated 50,000. It’s sometimes a complicated faith, he told them. “We have a duty to follow the gospel and to let the world know that we are caretakers of the poor, of immigrants, of refugees,” he said, before embarking on a day of celebrations for the opening of the World Meeting of Families.

His planned golf match for charity on Monday with Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg and Peter Thiel was also inspired by the faith of its participants, he said, before addressing his colleagues in the newly-formed Pontifical Council for the Family.

Gates and Bloomberg are heiresses to the fortunes that turned them into titans of capitalism; Thiel was the catalyst for the tech company PayPal and is a vocal champion of free market principles; Francis said he asked them to help raise awareness of the church’s attitude toward the other, more difficult half of humanity – which he considers the true “God-given” church, making a distinction between the church as a hierarchical institution and the “God-given” family, built on the “basic condition of love.”

In the “newly founded pontifical council for the family,” which has drawn criticism from other voices in the church, the pope sees the intersection of mission, charity and economics as “important – for us and for our future.” He hopes to see the fight against inequality through business models that overcome its exclusion, but also through networks of real-world exchanges that “kicks the problem out of the privileged inner circle,” he said.

Francis seems like he’s getting a lot done: He just returned from Tanzania, where he made a home-coming pilgrimage, and also travelled to Buenos Aires to celebrate the canonization of Argentina’s beloved revolutionary, Mother Teresa. Still, he said, when he meets “dark shadows” of his faith, like euthanasia, divorce, euthanasia, homosexuality and abortion, it motivates him to fight for new channels of purpose in institutions, politics and all of society.

“These things can change if they are fought and eliminated, but there are so many other insidious ways, which seem impossible, which prevent people’s access to dignity and the means of overcoming exclusion and poverty,” he said. “This is what keeps me going.”

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