While advancements in technology are mostly positive, they can also negatively affect the poor and the environment and risk letting “soulless machines” take the place of people, Pope Francis warned.

“In the face of profound and epochal changes, world leaders are challenged to ensure that the coming 'fourth industrial revolution,' the result of robotics and scientific and technological innovations, does not lead to the destruction of the human person,” the Pope has said.

He cautioned against allowing human beings to be “replaced by a soulless machine,” and warned that if technology gets too far out of our hands, the planet could slowly turn into “an empty garden for the enjoyment of a chosen few.”

“There is a need to create new models of doing business which, while promoting the development of advanced technologies, are also capable of using them to create dignified work for all, to uphold and consolidate social rights, and to protect the environment,” he said.

“Man must guide technological development, without letting himself be dominated by it!”

Pope Francis made his comments in a message addressed to Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and president of the World Economic Forum, on the first day of the organization's annual meeting.

A Swiss nonprofit organization based in Geneva, the forum holds a meeting every year in Davos-Klosters to discuss how to improve the state of the world by engaging global leaders in the business, political and academic fields to collaborate in global, regional and industry agendas.

Following the theme “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” the forum this year runs from Jan. 20-23.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, read the Pope's message aloud on the first day of the meeting.

In his message, Francis noted that the rise of the “so-called fourth industrial revolution” has been accompanied by a “drastic reduction” in the number of jobs available.

He referred to a recent study conducted by the International Labor Organization, which indicates that hundreds of millions of people are currently affected by unemployment.

“The financialization and technologization of national and global economies have produced far-reaching changes in the field of labor,” the Pope said, adding that the lack of opportunity for “useful and dignified employment,” coupled with a decline in social security, are causing “a disturbing rise” in both poverty and inequality throughout the world.

Francis stressed the need to create new ways of doing business that both promote technological advancements, and safeguard the dignity of the human person.

Pope Francis urged them not to forget the poor, saying that this concern is “the primary challenge before you as leaders in the business world.”

“We must never allow the culture of prosperity to deaden us, to make us incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people's pain, and sensing the need to help them, as though all this were someone else's responsibility and not our own,” he said.

To weep for other people's pain doesn't just mean sharing in their sufferings, he said, but primarily requires that we realize our own actions are frequently a cause of injustice and inequality.

Once we realize this, “we become more fully human, since responsibility for our brothers and sisters is an essential part of our common humanity.”

Francis told attendees that in opening their hearts and minds to the poor, “you will give free rein to your economic and technical talents, and discover the happiness of a full life, which consumerism of itself cannot provide.”

He encouraged them to take present opportunities when it comes to governing the processes currently underway, building “inclusive societies” founded on respect for the human person, tolerance, compassion and mercy.

“I urge you, then, to take up anew your conversation on how to build the future of the planet, our common home, and I ask you to make a united effort to pursue a sustainable and integral development.”

The Pope said that business is “a noble vocation,” especially when it promotes the creation of jobs as “an essential part of its service to the common good.”

Business therefore has a great responsibility in helping to overcome the “complex crisis of society and the environment,” as well as the scourge of poverty.

Doing this, he said, will make it possible to improve the poor living conditions that millions of people are subjected to, and will bridge “the social gap which gives rise to numerous injustices and erodes fundamental values of society, including equality, justice and solidarity.”

Francis closed his message by expressing his hope that the meeting would become a platform from which to advocate for the defense and protection of creation, as well as the achievement of a progress that is “healthier, more human, more social, more integral.”

He also voiced his hope that participants would give special attention to the environmental goals and efforts to eradicate poverty outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as the recent Paris Agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.