Catholic business owners have both a grave responsibility and an opportunity to promote the Church’s social teaching in a difficult atmosphere, Pope Francis told young entrepreneurs Monday.
“I am well aware that it is not easy, in everyday life, to reconcile the needs of the faith and the social teaching of the Church with the needs and constraints imposed by the laws of the market and of globalization,” he said in the Vatican’s apostolic palace Dec. 2.
“But,” he continued, “I believe that the evangelical values that you want to implement in directing your companies, as well as in the many relationships you have in your activities, are the occasion of a genuine and irreplaceable Christian witness.”
Pope Francis met with the delegation of French business leaders during a pilgrimage they are making to Rome. “It is a joy for me to encounter this desire that is in you to follow the teachings of the Gospel,” he said.
Expressing hope that their pilgrimage may illuminate their future discernment, he noted that “it has never been easy to be a Christian and have serious responsibilities.”
The pope noted some of the challenges that come with working in the business world, or with owning a business, such as the decisions which impact the survival of one’s company and the support of employees and their families with the payment of a just wage.
“I am thinking of working conditions, wages, job offers and their stability, as well as environmental protection. How can we live these conflicts in serenity and hope, while the Christian entrepreneur is sometimes led to silence his own convictions and ideals?” he asked.
The Second Vatican Council’s Gaudium et spes gives a criterion for discernment, Francis said.
“With regard to the laity engaged in temporal realities, it is said: ‘It is up to their already properly formed conscience to inscribe the divine law in the life of the earthly city,’” he stated, also speaking about the priest’s role of giving “light and spiritual strength.”
Catholics do not expect their pastors to have concrete answers, but they should “assume their responsibility, in the light of Christian wisdom and paying respectful attention to the teaching of the Magisterium.”
Pope Francis also quoted the Second Vatican Council’s dogmatic constitution, Lumen gentium, which says it is the role of lay people in their service of Christ to participate “with their competence in the profane disciplines and with their activity, intrinsically elevated by the grace of Christ,” to “effectively carry out their work, so that the created goods [...] may be advanced [...] for the benefit of all men without exception, and be more conveniently distributed among them and, according to their nature, lead to universal progress in human and Christian freedom.”
Striving to keep away from those parts of the world which are contrary to God and his will, and trying to transform the world in Christ can sometimes lead to martyrdom, as it did for Saints Peter and Paul, he said.
He explained that the Gospel message sometimes seems “weak” in comparison to worldly power and money, and it is not a utopia. It requires the strength of the Holy Spirit “and the support of the faith of brave missionary disciples” to put into practice.
The laity “have an essential role to play,” he said. “You can take action to concretely change things and, little by little, educate the world of work in a new style.”