Economic worldviews based only on material well-being cannot contribute to dignified labor and new models of economic progress are needed, Pope Francis told a gathering of business experts on Friday.
“An economic vision geared to profit and material well-being alone is — as experience is daily showing us — incapable of contributing in a positive way to a globalization that favours the integral development of the world’s peoples, a just distribution of the earth’s resources, the guarantee of dignified labour and the encouragement of private initiative and local enterprise,” Pope Francis said May 13 to the members of the Centesimus Annus pro Pontifice Foundation.
The foundation is in the midst of its international conference on “Business initiative in the fight against poverty: the refugee emergency, our challenge.” The foundation was founded in 1993 by St. John Paul II to study and promote Catholic social teaching.
Pope Francis addressed the conference participants in the Vatican's Clementine Hall, where he expressed his gratitude for their “readiness to bring your expertise and experience to the discussion of these critical humanitarian issues and the moral obligations that they entail.”
He said the refugee crisis is “especially close to my heart,” and recalled his visit to the Greek island of Lesbos, where many refugees seek to enter Europe, in April.
“Apart from the immediate and practical aspect of providing material relief to these brothers and sisters of ours, the international community is challenged to devise long-term political, social and economic responses to issues that transcend national and continental boundaries, and affect the entire human family,” the Pope stated.
He recalled that “the fight against poverty is not merely a technical economic problem, but above all a moral one, calling for global solidarity and the development of more equitable approaches to the concrete needs and aspirations of individuals and peoples worldwide.”
Pope Francis referred to the insistence of his predecessor, St. John Paul II, that “economic activity cannot be conducted in an institutional or political vacuum, but has an essential ethical component; it must always stand at the service of the human person and the universal common good.”
He said that “an economy of exclusion and inequality has led to greater numbers of the disenfranchised and those discarded as unproductive and useless.”
In more developed societies “the growth of relative poverty and social decay represent a serious threat to families, the shrinking middle class and in a particular way our young people,” he lamented.
Pope Francis said high youth unemployment rates are not only an economic problem, but are also “a social ill, for our youth are being robbed of hope and their great resources of energy, creativity and vision are being squandered.”
“It is my hope that your conference will contribute to generating new models of economic progress more clearly directed to the universal common good, inclusion and integral development, the creation of labour and investment in human resources,” he told them.
The Pope then referred to the Second Vatican Council's teaching, in Gaudium et spes, that “for Christians, economic, financial and business activity cannot be separated from the duty to strive for the perfecting of the temporal order in accordance with the values of God’s Kingdom.”
“Yours is in fact a vocation at the service of human dignity and the building of a world of authentic solidarity,” he told the conference participants.
“May your work always contribute to the growth of that civilization of love which embraces the entire human family in justice and peace.”