Participants of the World Economic Forum, from corporate chieftains to government ministers, are expected — encouraged, actually — to spend their time amid the snowy hills of Davos networking and talking shop.

But at the opening ceremony of the forum, a notable speaker urged those gathered to remember the needs of the less fortunate.

Pope Francis offered an address to the notables in Davos that reiterated many of the themes that have defined his papacy thus far, including a focus on economic inequality. His speech, delivered by Cardinal Peter Turkson, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, was careful to praise the work of business as a “noble vocation.”

But capitalism can only rise to that highest level if it is animated by a higher purpose, the pontiff continued. And while business has been the spark for much progress in the world, it has also left many people behind. “The successes which have been achieved, even if they have reduced poverty for a great number of people, often have led to a widespread social exclusion,” Pope Francis wrote.

The message came as a sober note at the beginning of one of the most prominent schmooze-fests around, where business leaders hope to do deals and government officials catch up with each other. That gathering of wealth and talent, however, should be coupled with more humanistic impulses, the Pope said.

“I urge you to draw upon these great human and moral resources and to take up this challenge with determination and far-sightedness,” he the Pope said. The Pope went on to add, “Without ignoring, naturally, the specific scientific and professional requirements of every context, I ask you to ensure that humanity is served by wealth and not ruled by it.” The message was amplified by the handing out of several Crystal Awards, recognitions of humanitarian work. Fitting in with the celebrity element of Davos, the first winner was actor Matt Damon, for his work in bringing clean water to impoverished communities through the non-profit group Water.org and his support of the ONE Campaign, an anti-poverty initiative.

— New York Times News Service

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