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Pope: Corruption is easiest 'sin at fingertips' of anyone with power

Vatican City

For everyone who has any kind of authority over others, the one sin "at your fingertips" is the sin of corruption, Pope Francis said.

And "the martyrs of corruption" -- those who end up paying the price for the politicians, financiers and church officials who abuse their power -- are the poor and the marginalized, he said during his early morning Mass Monday in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives.

The pope's homily was based on the day's reading from the First Book of Kings (21:1-16) in which King Ahab of Samaria felt entitled to a neighboring vineyard owned by Naboth, who refused to sell his property to the king. The king nonchalantly took possession of the land after his wife had Naboth killed in order to give the king what he wanted.

"This story repeats itself continuously" throughout history, the pope said, by people who possess "material power, political power or spiritual power."

The daily news is filled with accounts of politicians or business owners who are on trial after "magically getting rich," he said, according to a report by Vatican Radio.

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"There's too much talk about a priest who got too rich and neglected his pastoral duties in order to take care of his power," he added.

"Corrupt politicians, corrupt businessmen, and corrupt church leaders -- they're everywhere," he said.

"And we have to tell the truth: Corruption is precisely the sin that is at your fingertips. We are all tempted by corruption. It is a sin that is close at hand" and easy to succumb to, he said, "because when one has authority, one feels powerful, one feels almost like God."

The corrupt live a life enveloped in a sense of security, with a sense of "well-being, money, and then power, vanity and pride," he said.

But "who pays the price" of such a life of corruption? the pope asked. "The poor pay it."

"Those who pay are the hospitals without medicines, the sick who get no care, children without an education. They are the modern day Naboth, who pay for the corruption of the big guys.

"And who pays for the corruption of a priest? Children pay, those who don't know how to make the sign of the cross, who don't know the catechism, who aren't taken care of. The sick who are never visited pay, the prisoners who get no spiritual attention pay," he said.

"The poor pay. Corruption is paid for by the poor, the materially poor, the spiritually poor."

Pope Francis said service is the only antidote to a life of corruption or the temptation of corruption.

Humbly serving others is the only way out, he said, because "corruption comes from pride, from arrogance, and service makes you humble."

The pope offered the morning's Mass for all victims of corruption and those who pay the price with their lives, "these martyrs of political corruption, economic corruption and ecclesiastical corruption."

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