Spread wealth to avoid unrest: pope on English riots

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The pope said Friday that education and a fairer distribution of wealth were key to avoiding a repeat of last month's riots in England, the country's worst unrest in decades.

Benedict XVI referred to the summer violence in an address following an audience with newly-appointed British ambassador to the Holy See Nigel Marcus Baker.

When polices do not presume or promote objective values, the pontiff said, "the resulting moral relativism ... tends instead to produce frustration, despair, selfishness and a disregard for the life and liberty of others."

"Policy makers therefore are right to look urgently for ways to uphold excellence in education, to promote social opportunity and economic mobility, to examine ways to favour long-term employment and to spread wealth much more fairly and broadly throughout society."

The August riots, which began after police shot a man dead in north London, saw thousands of masked youths in London, Birmingham and Manchester involved in widespread looting, arson and violence that left five people dead.

The unrest prompted massive debate over its root cause, with London Mayor Boris Johnson most recently blaming the "feral criminal underclass" while Justice Minister Kenneth Clarke pointed the finger at the country's "broken penal system."

The pope, who visited Britain last September, said: "The active fostering of the essential values of a healthy society, through the defence of life and of the family, the sound moral education of the young, and a fraternal regard for the poor and the weak, will surely help to rebuild a positive sense of ones duty, in charity, towards friends and strangers alike in the local community."

© 2011 AFP

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