Ellison: Pope's message on capitalism's evils will 'change the debate'

Rep. Keith Ellison
Rep. Keith Ellison serves Minnesota's Fifth District in the U.S. House.
Jennifer Simonson/MPR News

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) says he thinks Pope Francis's condemnation this week of the evils of unfettered capitalism will help focus attention on the needs of the poor and vulnerable.

Earlier this week Ellison attended a rally to call attention to the struggle of people who do not earn living wages.

Ellison said he thinks the pope's decision to put the issue of poverty front and center could have significant implications in the effort to improve conditions for the poor.

• Related: Pope ramps up charity office to be near poor, sick

"I think that Pope Francis' comments will change the debate because this is a moral issue," Ellison said. "This is an issue of right and it is an issue of wrong, so when the Pope says it, other folks have got to listen. Of course, Catholics will listen, but a lot of other folks will listen, too."

Jorge Mario Bergoglio
In this 2008 photo, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, second from left, travels on the subway in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Bergoglio, who is now Pope Francis, was known for taking the subway and mingling with the poor of Buenos Aires. As pope, he is redefining the Catholic Church's mission toward and with the poor.
Pablo Leguizamon / AP

Ellison also said he thinks other leaders will follow the pope's lead in embracing the plight of the poor.

"I just belive that this is a call from a leading religious leader in our world," Ellison said. "It's a signal to other religious leaders to say, look, you know, the faith community — Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist — you name it, no faith at all, have got to come together and make the moral call for better wages and better benefits for working people."

Pope Francis tackled the issue of poverty in the first lengthy writing of his papacy, challenging assumptions that policies that help the wealthy trickle down to also help the poor. The pope says that opinion "expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power."

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