Insights from the dashboard: Economic inequality and leadership
Pope Francis appeared in a TV talk show for the first time in history. He addressed economic inequality, a key topic for many religious leaders.
For the first time in history, Pope Francis was a guest in a television talk show in February 2022. During his TV appearance in the Italian programme Che tempo che fa, he touched upon the topic of economic inequality. More specifically, he explained how ending weapon production for a year would reduce the gap between rich and poor. According to the pope, stopping production would allow for the provision of food and education across the globe.   
Insights from the dashboard
Pope Francis’s appearance in the talk show is a good example of how religious leaders are finding ways to discuss a variety of topics, including inequality. Let’s take a look at the connection between leadership and economic inequality on the EARS dashboard. The EARS dashboard is a collection of summaries from European media articles on religion and society. Until 11 February 2022, 11,954 summaries were published on the dashboard.
Economic inequality and leadership
As can be seen in the graph below, leadership is a major topic in the dashboard. In fact, it even appeared in 45% of all summaries added to the dashboard. This indicates that European media regularly publish about religious leaders. Economic inequality, on the other hand, is less visible on the dashboard. Only 3% of all summaries cover this subject.
166 summaries, or 1% of the total, contain both the search terms leadership and economic inequality. This overlap is shown in the diagram below.
Let’s take a look at how this overlap is made visible in the EARS dashboard.
A pandemic of inequality
39% of the summaries about economic inequality and leadership also link to the topic of COVID-19. From many of these summaries, it can be seen how the pandemic has increased inequality, with leaders calling for solutions.
Pope Francis’s actions and words are closely followed by many European media. In fact, he is one of the leaders appearing on the dashboard most often. Francis commented on the situation in various statements and messages. For example, in his 2020 Christmas message, the pope urged the faithful to be generous and supportive, especially towards the most vulnerable people. This included those affected by the economic consequences of the pandemic. Moreover, Francis called for the debt of the most vulnerable countries to be erased in light of the health, social, and economic crises resulting from COVID-19. 
Widening economic inequality
Other leaders have commented on pandemic-related inequalities as well. For instance, around 500 UK church leaders wrote to the government to highlight the vulnerable position of many families. They urged the government to provide more support and outlined how churches are already offering food and other essentials. In addition, Spanish priest Father Angel held a service in November 2021 to mark the fourth annual World Day of the Poor. During the service, he spoke of how the COVID-19 pandemic had increased poverty and mainly impacted the poorest people in society.
Additional examples include the Archbishop of Valladolid, Spain, asking that the management of the pandemic does not “deepen the gap between the poor and the rich.” Also the Bishop of the Diocese of Algarve, Portugal, denounced the widening economic and social inequality due to the coronavirus pandemic. He asked for solidarity and compassion. Furthermore, over 20 religious leaders in the Netherlands have called the Dutch government to support emerging countries in the wake of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. Finally, both the Diocese of Salamanca in Spain and Pope Francis created funds to support those who have been most impacted by the economic effects of the pandemic.  
The pope and inequality
Besides his calls for decreasing equality resulting from the pandemic, Pope Francis has also discussed other forms of economic inequality. For instance, in February 2022, he urged religious women to keep committing themselves to help the poor, even if they may not be treated equally in the religious world. A month earlier, in January, Francis noted how taxes should work towards the redistribution of wealth in order to protect the poor.
Already in December 2020, a book was published in which the pope called for a universal basic income. According to him, this would be an important step towards reforming the economy and reducing poverty. In November of the same year, on the occasion of World Day of the Poor, the pope also urged the faithful to help the poor.
Beyond Pope Francis
Even though Pope Francis appeared in many of the summaries on leadership, other religious leaders have also called for closing the gap between rich and poor. For example, at the end of 2021, the Catholic bishops of Albania sent a message to discuss poverty in the country. It included a request for a policy to fight poverty and the bishops offered cooperation to tackle this issue. 
Some leaders and organisations have gone beyond calling for action and took it upon themselves to reduce economic inequality. For instance, during Christmas 2021, Spanish Christian institutions and communities offered initiatives for less fortunate people, including Christmas dinners for those without homes.
Gap between rich and poor
Therefore, religious leaders and organisations have taken up the task to highlight economic inequality. Many see the COVID-19 pandemic as a source of a widened gap between rich and poor. With the virus continuing to spread, economic inequality will remain a key issue across the globe. Actions taken by religious organisations can help to lighten the burden on those most affected.
Learn more on the EARS dashboard
The EARS dashboard allows you to gain insights into a large number of topics, including leadership, economic inequality, and COVID-19. It is a free tool that enables you to make similar connections as described above, and to find out about new relationships between interesting subjects across Europe. Please visit the dashboard to learn more.