Business leaders have an obligation to use their gifts to help the poor and vulnerable, working to promote equality and human dignity, said Pope Francis in a recent letter.

“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,” the Pope said.

“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 place to place.”

“I know that these words are forceful, even dramatic,” he continued, “but they seek both to affirm and to challenge the ability of this assembly to make a difference.”

The Pope's words came in a letter to Prof. Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, days before the group's late January meeting in Switzerland.

Modern business activity, Pope Francis said, has had a “fundamental role” in improving human welfare “by stimulating and developing the immense resources of human intelligence.”

But while economic success has helped to reduce poverty “for a great number of people,” he observed, it has “led to a widespread social exclusion” for others.

The majority of people on Earth, he said, “still continue to experience daily insecurity,” facing “intolerable” situations such as extreme hunger and lack of shelter.

The Holy Father lamented that human dignity and the common good seem to be “little more than an afterthought” in many political and economic decisions. He challenged members of the World Economic Forum to place the innovative skills of the business world “at the service of those who are still living in dire poverty.”

While the expansion of equality “presupposes” economic growth, the Pope said, it also “demands something more” — a transcendent view of the human person and proper understanding of human dignity.

“I am convinced that from such an openness to the transcendent a new political and business mentality can take shape, one capable of guiding all economic and financial activity within the horizon of an ethical approach which is truly humane,” he said.

The growth of equality also “calls for decisions, mechanisms and processes directed to a better distribution of wealth, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality,” he elaborated.

Pope Francis called for a “profound and broadened sense of responsibility” on behalf of all. He encouraged business leaders to see their work as a vocation and understand their duty towards the common good.

“Without ignoring, naturally, the specific scientific and professional requirements of every context,” he concluded, “I ask you to ensure that humanity is served by wealth and not ruled by it.”

---Catholic News Agency