IN COVENANT WITH POPE FRANCIS, Maria Fischer •
Pope Francis invites young economists, entrepreneurs, and change-makers to Assisi, to make a commitment in the spirit of Saint Francis, in order to make the economy of today and tomorrow fair, sustainable and inclusive, with no one left behind. The other day, a Focolare friend sent this message to her network of fellow journalists from “Together for Europe”, and Schoenstatt.org forwarded the invitation at once, as we realized that news on this great event still needs to spread. “Too bad we are beyond 35”, was Ulrich Grauert`s comment. “We would really like to participate!” The leader of the International Kentenich Academy for leaders immediately shared the information in his professional networks and his own company. And so do others… —
Yes! The “Economy of Francesco” will be available on various social media networks – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Flickr – in order to make it possible for everyone to be updated on the three-day event, specifically dedicated to young people, as desired by Pope Francis.
The event, held in Assisi from March 26 to March 28 2020, already received more than 500 participation requests from under-35 entrepreneurs and students from more than 45 countries, including Japan, Angola, Brazil, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Portugal and Cuba. In just a few months, the site www.francescoeconomy.org reached more than 2000 subscribers.
In preparation for the international meeting in Assisi, workshops, study seminars and conferences will be held in Italy and around the world. These preparatory events will be promoted by universities, companies, business networks and various other organizations to cultivate critical thought, especially among young people. Several meetings are already scheduled. First, the City of St. Francis will host “Assisi Pathways”; other preparatory meetings will take place later in both Spain and Cameroon.
Where theory and practice come together
The appointment with the Pope will not be a traditional conference, but an experience where theory and practice come together to build new ideas and new collaborations.
The meeting will begin with the proposals and the preparatory work of young people; it will provide an environment where time slows down and room is made for silence and reflection. Workshops and artistic presentations will be offered by the best-known economists, sustainable development experts, female and male entrepreneurs currently engaged globally in creating a different economy – with the proposal of engendering common reflection and collaboration with and among the young participants.
The Nobel Prize winners Muhammad Yunus and Amarthya Sen have already confirmed their presence at The Economy of Francis. In addition, other participants will include Bruno Frey, Tony Meloto, Carlo Petrini, Kate Raworth, Jeffrey Sachs, Vandana Shiva and Stefano Zamagni.
To embrace young people, beyond differences in belief and nationality, an agreement to change the current economy and humanize the economy of tomorrow: to make it more just, more sustainable and to give new prominence to excluded people.
A personal invitation from Pope Francis
The invitation to participate has come directly from Pope Francis, who has issued a letter in which he invites to the City of St. Francis, which is symbol of humanism and fraternity, young economists and entrepreneurs from all over the world, without distinctions of creed or nationality, to initiate with them a process of global change so that today’s and tomorrow’s economy is fairer, inclusive and sustainable, without leaving anyone behind.
The most complex problems in today’s world, from safeguarding the environment to justice for the poor, need courageous commitment to rethink the economic paradigms of our time. In the Encyclical Letter Laudato si’, the Holy Father recalled that everything is intimately connected and that the Earth is our “common home”, and therefore launched an appeal to defend it and all of humanity that inhabits the Earth. He warned us against the careless exploitation of resources and short-sighted policies that look to immediate success without prospects for the long-term. Starting from the example of St. Francis, it is therefore necessary to rebuild a new integral ecology, one that is inseparable from the concept of the common good, which must be implemented through choices based on solidarity and the “preferential option for the poor” starting “from solving the structural problems of the world economy.”
«Pope Francis’ invitation to young economists is an event that marks an historic step forward, because it brings together two of the Pope’s key subjects and passions: his priority for young people and his concern for a new type of economy. In his name, we are inviting economists and entrepreneurs who are more sensitive to the spirit of the Oikonomia of Francis (Francis of Assisi and Pope Francis), in order to give young people the best of today’s economic thought and practice in the world. The word Oikonomia brings together many realities: the Greek root recalls household management but it also refers to the care of our common home, the OIKOS. We also consider it in reference to Oikonomia as understood by the Fathers of the Church: a theological category of universal salvation. Assisi is an essential part of the event, because it is a city that proclaims a message about a different type of economy. Various venues in Assisi will host parts of the programme, which will be built around the three pillars of Francis’ Oikonomia: young people, the environment and the poor “, says Prof. Luigino Bruni, Scientific Director of the Committee.
For Pope Francis, the event represents the consolidation of a “covenant to change the current economy and give a soul to the economy of tomorrow”. It intends to give hope for the rights of future generations, for welcoming life, for social equity, for the dignity of workers and the preservation of our planet. From 26 to 28 March 2020, The Economy of Francis will consist of workshops, artistic events, seminars and plenary sessions with the best known economists and experts in sustainable development and the humanities, who will reflect and work together with young people.
The event is organised by a Committee composed of the Diocese of Assisi, Assisi City Council, the Seraphic Institute of Assisi and the Economy of Communion (Focolare Movement).
I am writing to invite you to take part in an initiative very close to my heart. An event that will allow me to encounter young men and women studying economics and interested in a different kind of economy: one that brings life not death, one that is inclusive and not exclusive, humane and not dehumanizing, one that cares for the environment and does not despoil it. An event that will help bring us together and allow us to meet one another and eventually enter into a “covenant” to change today’s economy and to give a soul to the economy of tomorrow.
Surely there is a need to “re-animate” the economy! And where better to do so than Assisi, which has for centuries eloquently symbolized a humanism of fraternity? Saint John Paul II chose Assisi as the icon of a culture of peace. For me, it is also a fitting place to inspire a new economy. There Francis stripped himself of all worldliness in order to choose God as the compass of his life, becoming poor with the poor, a brother to all. His decision to embrace poverty also gave rise to a vision of economics that remains most timely. A vision that can give hope to our future and benefit not only the poorest of the poor, but our entire human family. A vision that is also necessary for the fate of the entire planet, our common home, “our sister Mother Earth”, in the words of Saint Francis in his Canticle of the Sun.
In my Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, I emphasized that, today more than ever, everything is deeply connected and that the safeguarding of the environment cannot be divorced from ensuring justice for the poor and finding answers to the structural problems of the global economy. We need to correct models of growth incapable of guaranteeing respect for the environment, openness to life, concern for the family, social equality, the dignity of workers and the rights of future generations. Sadly, few have heard the appeal to acknowledge the gravity of the problems and, even more, to set in place a new economic model, the fruit of a culture of communion based on fraternity and equality.
Francis of Assisi is the outstanding example of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology. I think of the words spoken to him from the Crucifix in the little church of San Damiano: “Go, Francis, repair my house, which, as you see, is falling into ruin”. The repair of that house concerns all of us. It concerns the Church, society and the heart of each individual. Increasingly, it concerns the environment, which urgently demands a sound economy and a sustainable development that can heal its wounds and assure us of a worthy future.
Given this urgent need, each one of us is called to rethink his or her mental and moral priorities, to bring them into greater conformity with God’s commandments and the demands of the common good. But I thought especially of inviting you young people, because your desire for a better and happier future makes you even now a prophetic sign, pointing towards an economy attentive to the person and to the environment.
Dear young people, I know that you can hear in your hearts the ever more anguished plea of the earth and its poor, who cry out for help and for responsibility, for people who will respond and not turn away. If you listen to what your heart tells you, you will feel part of a new and courageous culture, you will not be afraid to face risks and work to build a new society. The risen Jesus is our strength! As I told you in Panama and I wrote in my Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christus Vivit: “Please, do not leave it to others to be protagonists of change. You are the ones who hold the future! Through you, the future enters into the world. I ask you also to be protagonists of this transformation… I ask you to build the future, to work for a better world” (No. 174).
Your universities, your businesses and your organizations are workshops of hope for creating new ways of understanding the economy and progress, for combating the culture of waste, for giving voice to those who have none and for proposing new styles of life. Only when our economic and social system no longer produces even a single victim, a single person cast aside, will we be able to celebrate the feast of universal fraternity.
That is why I would like to meet you in Assisi: so that we can promote together, through a common “covenant”, a process of global change. One in which not only believers but all men and women of good will, beyond differences of creed and nationality, can participate, inspired by an ideal of fraternity attentive above all to the poor and excluded. I invite each of you to work for this covenant, committing yourselves individually and in groups to cultivate together the dream of a new humanism responsive to the expectations of men and women and to the plan of God.
The name of this event – Economy of Francesco – clearly evokes the Holy Man of Assisi and the Gospel that he lived in complete consistency, also on the social and economic level. Saint Francis offers us an ideal and, in some sense, a programme. For me, who took his name, he is a constant source of inspiration.
With you, and through you, I will appeal to some of our best economists and entrepreneurs who are already working on the global level to create an economy consistent with these ideals. I am confident that they will respond. And I am confident above all in you young people, who are capable of dreaming and who are prepared to build, with the help of God, a more just and beautiful world.
Our meeting is planned for 26 to 28 March 2020. Together with the Bishop of Assisi, whose predecessor Guido, eight centuries ago, received the young Francis in his house when he made the prophetic gesture of his stripping, I count on receiving you myself. I await you and even now, I greet you and I give you my blessing. Please, do not forget to pray for me.
From the Vatican, 1 May 2019
Memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker
You may apply for participation through the official website of the conference, francescoeconomy.org, filling out the appropriate form at the link, “Towards the Economy of Francesco”.
Material audiovisual: francescoeconomy.org