Due to the outbreak of coronavirus in Italy, a major conference on the world economy scheduled for later this month in the Italian city of Assisi, with Pope Francis’ participation, has been postponed until November.
The event, called “The Economy of Francis,” was set to gather 2,000 young people from 115 countries, who now will have to face changing plane tickets and other reservations to attend what was originally set to be a March 26-28 conference, with Pope Francis attending the final day.
The event now is expected to be held in the same place Nov. 19-21, with the pope once again closing the gathering.
Organized by the Diocese of Assisi, the Seraphic Institute, the Municipality of Assisi, the Franciscan order and the Economy of Communion (an initiative of the Focolare lay movement), the summit had the patronage of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Integral Human Development, headed by Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana.
A statement released by “The Economy of Francis” said the date change was to “encourage the best progress of the initiative, given the objective difficulty that so many young people are currently having when traveling internationally.”
As the website of the event explains, the title of the conference refers to the saint of Assisi, “an example par excellence of care for the least of the earth and for an integral ecology,” but it also refers to Pope Francis. Ever since he wrote his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium and then his encyclical on the care of the common home Laudato Si’, the pontiff has denounced the “pathological state of so much of the world’s economy extending an invitation to put in place a new economic model.”
Though the event was addressed to young activists, headliners included Nobel economy prize winner Amartya Sen of India, Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh, and well as business leaders and academics.
A spokesman for the event said Sunday that the postponement was not related to the fact that Francis decided to skip a week-long Lent retreat for the Roman curia in the outskirts of the Eternal City. During his Sunday Angelus address, the pope said a cold prevented him from attending. During the past week, he’s cancelled several appointments for the same reason.
To date, 34 people in Italy have died due to the outbreak of coronavirus, though 84 are also reported to have recovered, and the cumulative number of cases is close to 1,700.
An organizer of “The Economy of Francis” told Crux that the decision to postpone, despite the hardship it may cause for some of the participants who’d been saving to take part, was the only way to guarantee that the event could be held at all. If they had kept the original date and the outbreak worsened, the spokesperson said, a last-minute cancellation or delay likely would have been inevitable.
Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University announced on Monday that, due to the “changed situation of international mobility,” some events that were scheduled for this week were also postponed. A conference on Hebrew and Christian art was moved to May, while an international conference on “The Holy See and the United States in the Archives of Pius XII,” originally scheduled for March 5 and 6, organized by the Gregorian and the University of Notre Dame, has been postponed to a date to be defined.