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Pope pens missive on poverty and weighs major overhaul of Vatican finance activities

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis penned a new missive on the injustices of poverty Wednesday amid indications he is eyeing a major overhaul of the Vatican's financial house by creating a finance ministry to better serve the church.

Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, a key adviser in Francis' Group of Eight cardinal cabinet, told the French Catholic newspaper La Croix that creating a "finance secretariat" was needed to better organize the diverse financial departments.

He said a cardinal would probably head it, assisted by a permanent advisory body of lay experts.

The development came as Francis and his "G8" cardinals ended three days of meetings to hear proposals for reform by experts who have been studying the Vatican's financial institutions. Based on the experts' reports, the G8 cardinals made their own financial reform recommendations to Francis, but no decisions were immediately announced Wednesday.

Francis was elected with a mandate to reform the antiquated and inefficient Vatican bureaucracy to make it more responsive to the needs of the 21st-century church and to help, rather than hinder, bishops trying to spread the faith.

He has paid special attention to the scandal-marred Vatican bank, long accused by Italian authorities of being an off-shore tax haven, and the half-dozen independent Vatican finance offices that do everything from managing the money-making Vatican Museums to administering the Holy See's vast real estate holdings.

Francis has called for his church to be particularly attentive to the needs of the poor, and has railed against the injustices of the global capitalist system. On Wednesday, Italian daily Corriere della Sera published the preface Francis wrote for a book by his chief doctrine czar on the mission of the church: "Poor for the Poor."

While money can help people achieve goals, "money and economic power can be a means to distance people from one another, confining them to an egocentric and egotistical plane," Francis wrote.

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Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield

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