Ugandan business woman Rita Najjingo was among the 1,200 business owners and researchers of economy who were welcomed by Pope Francis on February 4, twenty five years from the start of the Economy of Communion Project (EoC). Seventy three percent of Rita’s country is made up of young people between the ages of 18 and 30, 47% of whom are unemployed. “Many of them try to set up small manufacturing activities,” Rita reports, “but because of a lack of capital and management skills, their businesses fail from start.”
1200 business people, young people and specialists in the Economy of Communion met Pope Francis on the 25th anniversary of the start of the project. He encouraged all present to develop “an economy which gives life, because it is based on sharing, includes the needy and uses profits to create communion”.
The rules of the economic and social system should be changed "in favor of an economy of communion’” which "gives life, because it shares, including the poor, uses profits to create communion". Tax evasion "before being illegal acts are acts that deny the basic law of life: mutual aid".
"When capitalism makes the seeking of profit its only purpose, it runs the risk of becoming an idolatrous framework, a form of worship" that produces " discarded people, then trying to hide them or make sure they are never seen", said Pope Francis, calling for a "change in the rules of the economic-social system" in favor of a "communion" economy, which "gives life, because it shares, including the poor, it uses the profits to create communion".
An audience on the "Economy of Communion", organized by the Focolare Movement gave Pope Francis the opportunity to reiterate the need to change an economy that neglects man and worships money as a god, "a surrogate of eternal life". " “Individual products (cars, telephones ...) get old and wear out, but if I have money or credit, I can immediately buy others, deluding myself of conquering death.”
Economy and communion. These are two words that dominant culture keeps separate and often considers as opposites. You have united these words, by welcoming the invitation that Chiara Lubich extended to you in Brazil 25 years ago. Faced with the scandal of inequality in the city of Sao Paolo, she asked entrepreneurs to become agents of communion.” These are the words that Pope Francis used to greet the 1,100 entrepreneurs, students, and scholars of the Economy of Communion (EoC) on February 4th.
The full text of Pope Francis’ address is now widely available. It has been disseminated on numerous websites, including here on ours, and posted to various social media. Here is the Vatican’s official translation into English. This is a good and wonderful thing for all of us; to have his message shared for all peoples and for all time. This is a joy! This makes it possible for everyone to study his words, ponder his meaning, and share insights and questions with each other.
"Affliction is by its nature inarticulate. The afflicted silently beseech to be given the words to express themselves. There are times when they are given none..."
Simone Weil, Human Personality (English translation: Richard Rhees)
Merit is the great paradox of the economic cult of our time. The first spirit of capitalism was generated from the radical critique of Luther's theology of merit, but that "rejected stone" has now become the "cornerstone" of the new capitalist religion, which is emerging from the heart of the very countries built on that ancient anti-meritocratic Protestant ethic. Salvation for "sola gratia" and not through our own merits was placed at the centre of the Protestant Reformation. It was also a revival of Augustine's polemics against Pelagius (Luther was an Augustinian monk), a millennium later. The anti-Pelagian criticism was essentially a surpassing of the ancient idea that the salvation of the soul, the blessing of God and heaven could be earned, purchased, bought or earned by our actions. The theology of merit also wanted to imprison God within the meritocratic logic, forcing him to punish and reward based on criteria attributed to him by theologians.
I am pleased to welcome you as representatives of a project in which I have been genuinely interested for some time. I convey my cordial greeting to each of you, and I thank in particular the coordinator, Prof. Luigino Bruni, for his courteous words. And I thank you for your testimonies.
Economy and communion. These are two words that contemporary culture keeps separate and often considers opposites. Two words that you have instead joined, accepting the invitation that Chiara Lubich offered you 25 years ago in Brazil, when, in the face of the scandal of inequality in the city of São Paulo, she asked entrepreneurs to become agents of communion. She invited you to be creative, skilful, but not only this.
"(C)apitalism is a pure religious cult, perhaps the most extreme there ever was. Within it, everything only has meaning in direct relation to the cult: it knows no special dogma, no theology."
Walter Benjamin, Capitalism as Religion (translated by Chad Kautzer)
The capitalism of the nineteenth and twentieth century was animated by a Judeo-Christian spirit, a spirit of work, effort and production. But we no longer understand the spirit of our capitalism if we continue to look for it inside Christianity or the Bible. Market society in recent years has been increasingly resembling a religion, but the traits that it is taking make it more akin with the Middle Eastern cities of three thousand years ago, or the Greek and Roman ones of some later centuries. With their public spaces occupied by many statues, temples, steles, altars, shrines, and their private spaces filled with amulets, household gods and a huge production of household idols. And their many sacrifices, around which their life, parties and death were ordered. The Judeo-Christian humanism was, above all, an attempt to empty the world of idols and free it from the sacrifices. It was an only partially successful attempt, because the tendency to build idols to worship has always been too strong in men.
The Economy of Communion proposes the following "Guidelines for conducting a business", to productive organizations who adhere to its message and its culture, written in the light of the life and thought of thousands of entrepreneurs and workers....
The Economy of Communion (EoC) is a movement that involves entrepreneurs, workers, directors, consumers, savers, scholars, economic workers, poor and citizens, families, and was launched by Chiara Lubich in May of 1991 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Read more...
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