22/01/2014 04:58 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 16:01 GMT

Pope Francis Calls On Davos To Use Wealth To 'Serve, Not Rule'

Pope Francis delivers his blessing at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

As the global elite and the world's wealthiest gather in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, Pope Francis has some words of advice: use the billions to serve the world, not rule it.

The pontiff, who has been outspoken on issues of poverty and inequality since he was elected, urged the bankers and business leaders to put their wealth to better use.

"I ask you to ensure that humanity is served by wealth and not ruled by it," Pope Francis said, in a statement read out at the opening ceremony of the WEF by Cardinal Peter Turkson, the president of the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice.

"The growth of equality demands something more than economic growth, even though it presupposes it. It demands first of all 'a transcendent vision of the person'.

"It 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 did not, however, criticise the greed and excess that has oft characterised the meeting of the World Economic Forum. Last month, in a message to mark the World Day Of Peace, the pope was more critical, saying: "The grave financial and economic crises of the present time ... have pushed man to seek satisfaction, happiness and security in consumption and earnings out of all proportion to the principles of a sound economy."

The Pope's message chimes with the new research by Oxfam this week showing the richest 85 people in the world now have as much wealth as the bottom half of the world's population, 3.5 billion people.

After the opening ceremony, Turkson told reporters of the joy many felt in the leadership of the new Pope. "It's been like a springtime for all of us," he told CNN. "He's breathed new life into Church leadership."