The Gospel Means Hope for the Economy, too

In the preface to the book «Potere e denaro» ("Power and Money"), edited by Michele Zanzucchi and published today, Pope Francis raises the question of the financial system's responsibility for the inequalities of the planet

by Pope Francis

Published in Corriere della Sera, 11/04/2018

Papa FrancescoThe economy is a vital component of every society. To a large extent, it determines the quality of life and even that of dying, it contributes to making human existence worthy or unworthy. Therefore, it occupies an important place in the Church's reflection, which looks upon men and women as people called to collaborate with God's plan also through work and through the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services. For this reason, from the first weeks of my pontificate, I have had the opportunity to deal with questions regarding poverty and wealth, justice and injustice, sound and perverse finance.

If we look at the global economy and markets today, one of the evident facts is their ambivalence. On the one hand, in recent years the economy has allowed billions of people to look towards well-being, rights and better health more than ever before. At the same time, the economy and markets have played a role in the over-exploitation of common resources, increasing inequalities and the deterioration of the planet. Therefore, an ethical and spiritual evaluation must be able to move within this ambivalence, which emerges in increasingly complex contexts.

Our world is capable of the best and the worst. It has always been, but in our days the technical and financial means have amplified the potential for good and evil. While in some parts of the world people delve in a life of opulence, in others they don’t have enough to even survive. I have seen more of these contrasts during my travels than I had been able to witness in Argentina. I have seen the paradox of a globalised economy that could feed, care for and house all the inhabitants who live in our common home, but which - as some worrying statistics show - concentrates the same wealth that would provide for about half the world’s population in the hands of very few people. I have seen that the unbridled capitalism of the recent decades has further widened the gulf between the richest and the poorest, generating new kinds of precariousness and slavery.

The present concentration of wealth is, to a large extent, the result of the mechanisms of the financial system. Looking at finance, we also see that in the age of globalization, an economic system based on proximity encounters many difficulties: financial institutions and multinational companies reach such dimensions as to affect local economies, making states increasingly difficult to work well for the development of populations. On the other hand, the lack of adequate regulation and controls encourages the growth of speculative capital, which does not care about long-term productive investment, but seeks immediate profit.

First as a simple Christian, then as a religious and priest, therefore as Pope, I believe that social and economic issues cannot be Potere e denaro Zanzucchi ridforeign to the Gospel message. Therefore, in the wake of my predecessors, I try to listen to the stakeholders on the world stage, from workers through entrepreneurs to politicians, giving a voice, in particular, to the poor, the rejected, those who suffer. In spreading the message of the charity and justice of the Gospel, the Church cannot remain silent in the face of injustice and suffering. The Church can and will join the millions of men and women who say no to injustice in a peaceful way, working for greater equity. Everywhere there are people who say yes to life, to justice, to legality, to solidarity. Many meetings confirm to me that the Gospel is not a utopia but a real hope, also for the economy: God does not abandon his creatures at the mercy of evil. On the contrary, he invites them not to tire of working with everyone for the common good.

What I say and write about the power of the economy and finance is intended to be an appeal for the poor to be treated better and for injustices to diminish. In particular, I constantly call for stopping to make profit on weapons, with the risk of unleashing wars which, in addition to the dead and the poor, only increases the funds of a few, funds that are often impersonal and greater than the budgets of the host countries, funds which thrive in innocent blood. (...) There are some ‘no’-s to be said about waste mentality: we must avoid conforming to the single, common thought, and courageously make good and counter current choices instead. As Scripture teaches, everyone can repent, convert and become witnesses and prophets of a world that is more just and practices solidarity. 

In God's eyes, the world created is good; the human being is very good (Cf. Gen 1:4-31). Sin has stained and continues to stain the original goodness, but it cannot erase the imprint of the image of God present in every man. Therefore we must not lose hope: we are living through a difficult period, but one full of new and unprecedented opportunities. We cannot stop believing that with the help of God and together - I repeat, together - we can improve our world and revive hope, which is perhaps the most precious virtue today. If we are together, united in his name, the Lord is among us according to his promise (cf. Mt 18:20); therefore he is with us also in the midst of the world, in factories, in companies and banks, just as in family homes, in favelas and in refugee camps. We can, and must, hope.

© Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2018
(The above text is from the Preface to the book entitled “Potere e Denaro. La giustizia sociale secondo Bergoglio”  (‘Power and Money. Social Justice according to Bergoglio’) ed.: Michele Zanzucchi, Edizioni Città Nuova))

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