ROME – Pope Francis took a day trip to Assisi on Saturday to meet with young economists and changemakers and sign a pact outlining a shared vision for a peaceful and just economy that is fairer and respects the poor and the environment.
In the agreement, signed and read Sept. 24 at the conclusion of an Economy of Francis event in Assisi, the youth recognized that “our generation has a responsibility” and expressed their commitment “to live our lives in this way.” that the economy of today and tomorrow becomes a gospel economy.”
In particular, they outlined their vision of an “economy of peace and not war” that opposes the proliferation of arms, “especially the most destructive ones,” and that puts itself at the service of the human person and families, especially those most vulnerable.
They also expressed their desire for an economy that respects and “does not abuse” creation, and that “cherishes and protects” diverse cultures and traditions as well as the earth’s natural resources.
The pact also stressed the need for an economy committed to creating “safe and dignified” work for all and in which “finance is a friend and ally of the real economy and of work, not against it”.
Poverty in all its forms must be tackled in order to reduce inequality and truly embrace the poor, they said, emphasizing the need for an economy “guided by an ethic of the human person and open to transcendence” that creates prosperity for all and promotes joy, “not just wealth, for happiness not shared is incomplete.”
“We believe in this economy,” they said, insisting that the vision outlined in the pact “is not utopia because we are already building it. And some of us, on particularly bright mornings, have already sensed the beginning of the promised land.”
Pope Francis traveled to Assisi to conclude The Economy of Francis event, which brought together young economists, entrepreneurs, change-makers, students and workers from around the world to discuss the formation of a more just and fraternal economy.
The Pope originally announced plans to travel to Assisi for the event over two years ago, but it was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, forcing attendees to conduct discussions and work sessions online in preparation for meeting in person.
The face-to-face meeting in Assisi was eventually rescheduled for this week, September 22-24, and has attracted around 1,000 young people from over 100 countries.
Assisi, where Pope Francis has traveled several times since his election in 2013, is the burial place of Saint Francis of Assisi, his papal namesake and someone known for his decision to leave wealth behind to embrace a life of poverty.
Upon his arrival, Pope Francis was greeted by a large delegation of youth and regional ecclesiastical and civil authorities, such as Archbishop of Assisi Domenico Sorrentino, as well as senior Vatican officials, such as Canadian Jesuit Cardinal Michael Czerny, head of the Vatican’s integral people department Development, as well as the secretary of the department, the Italian sister and the economist Alessandra Smerilli.
Upon arrival, Pope Francis made his way to the Lyrick Theater podium and heard testimonies from eight young people, punctuated by musical and theatrical performances.
The pact was then read aloud and signed by the Pope, who outlined his vision for the world economy, repeated appeals for the poor and the environment, and criticized global capitalism, urging the young economists and entrepreneurs in attendance to break new ground in justice and equality.
“When one young person sees the same calling in another young person, and that experience is repeated with hundreds, even thousands of other young people, then great things become possible, even the hope of transforming a vast and complex system like the world economy,” he said.
He noted the many challenges the world is currently facing, such as the ongoing environmental crisis, the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine, among other global conflicts.
“Today, a new economy inspired by Francis of Assisi can and must become an economy of friendship with the earth and an economy of peace,” said the pope, saying that this means “transforming an economy that kills into an economy of life.” , overall its aspects.
Noting that many prophets in the Bible were young when called by God, Francis emphasized that “if civil society and corporations lack the skills of youth, the entire society will atrophy and everyone’s life will be extinguished. There is a lack of creativity, optimism, enthusiasm.”
“A society and economy without young people is sad, pessimistic and cynical,” he said, emphasizing the need for an economy with a “prophetic dimension” that focuses on genuine ecological and personal conversion.
“The earth is on fire today and today we must change on all levels,” said the Pope, urging youth to imitate plants as their growth and thriving depends on their collaboration with the entire environment around them.
Throughout the twentieth century, the earth and its resources have been “plundered,” he said, and if the paradigm remains the same, strategies to counter the damage will “always be inadequate.”
As in the past, Pope Francis has condemned the use of fossil fuels and called for investments in renewable energy sources.
He also urged young people to embrace the ethical principle that “damage must be repaired,” meaning those who have abused the planet and atmosphere must now make sacrifices and abandon unsustainable habits and lifestyles.
Sustainability, he said, is “a multidimensional reality” and therefore goes beyond the environment and requires changes in social, relational and spiritual dimensions.
Calling for changes that respect the poor, Francis said: “Carbon dioxide isn’t the only pollution that kills; Inequality is also fatal to our planet.”
“We must not allow the new environmental disasters to erase from public view the long-standing and pervasive disasters of social injustice,” he said.
He stressed the need to foster more sustainable relationships, pointing in particular to the West, where relationships between people and communities “are becoming more and more fragile and fragmented” and the family and the ability to accept and protect life “in a serious crisis put”.
Thanks to rampant consumption encouraged by many big companies, a “famine of happiness” has also emerged, with people increasingly isolated and lonely, he said, saying the trend needs to be reversed.
Pope Francis also reiterated his criticism of capitalism, saying it is “unsustainable” in its current form.
“The first capital of every society is the intellectual capital, because that gives us a reason to get up every morning,” he said, pointing out that young people in particular are increasingly suffering from meaninglessness.
This, the pope said, “comes from a lack of that precious spiritual capital — an invisible but more real capital than financial or technological capital. We urgently need to rebuild this essential spiritual heritage.”
Referring to the figure of St. Francis of Assisi and his love of poverty, the Pope said that developing an economy inspired by the Umbrian saint means “putting the poor at the center”.
“Starting with them, let’s look at the economy; Starting with them, we look at the world,” he said, urging youth not to become complicit in a system that “produces discarded people” and an “economy that kills.”
Pope Francis concluded his speech by urging young economists to do three things, the first of which is to “see the world through the eyes of the poorest of the poor”.
“In the Middle Ages, the Franciscan movement was able to create the first economic theories and even the first banks for the needy” through their Monti di Pietaor “Mountains of Mercy” which were essentially pawnbrokers run as charities.
“You too will improve the economy if you look at things from the perspective of victims and excluded,” he said.
Francis also urged youth not to forget the importance of work and workers and to create work for all, saying that employment “is the challenge of our time and will be all the more the challenge of tomorrow”.
He also stressed the importance of “incarnation,” saying real change comes not just through ideals, but through translating those values into concrete actions.
The Pope asked forgiveness for past sins towards the poor, marginalized and the environment and asked God to support the young people present, especially in their “longing for good and for life”.
“Empower them when they face disappointment because of bad examples, don’t let them get discouraged but may they continue on their way,” he said.
Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen