ROME – With the opening of Pope Francis’s “Jubilee of Hope” in 2025 less than a year away, a group of young Christian businessmen say they see the event as an opportunity to boost Rome’s profile as a hub of entrepreneurial talent and innovation.
Members of the Christian Union of Entrepreneurs and Managers (UCID), a private association of believers made up of managers and businessmen who base their work on the principles of the Catholic Church’s social doctrine, want to boost the business and tech sectors in Rome, making it more competitive and less dependent on tourism.
Benedetto Delle Site, a Roman businessman in the finance sector who serves as president of the youth sector of UCID, was quoted in Italy’s paper of record, La Repubblica, as saying the jubilee for Rome is “the last call, we need a pact with businesses to relaunch the image of the capital city.”
“Rome is late,” he said, noting that the city lags behind many other European capitals in terms of non-tourist industries.
“Rome can become the world capital of ethics applied to innovation,” he said, saying the city “has the characteristics of being a laboratory of a development model that puts man at the center. In this sense, the Jubilee represents an opportunity.”
Delle Site noted that Rome recently lost the bid for hosting the prestigious Expo 2030 event, during which a slew of companies and organizations belonging to a specific industry or niche gather to showcase new products, services, and developments.
In late November, Saudi Arabia was announced as the location for the next Expo event, scheduled for 2030, with Riyadh gathering nearly 70 percent of votes. South Korea came in second, and Rome came in third place, with just 17 votes.
Calling the loss “a humiliation for Italy but also for Europe, once again disunited,” Delle Site said Rome “played its cards badly” and lamented that in recent years, the city has “continued to decline in rankings.”
Despite an increased influx of tourists following the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a “continuous abandonment of businesses and top professionals,” Delle Site said.
“Our city deludes itself into thinking that it can sustain itself on the income of the beauty of its monuments and the status of a political capital.” In truth, he said, only “a few large companies, which can now be counted on the fingers of one hand, maintain a registered office,” he said.
Delle Site said the “humiliation” of losing the bid to host Expo2030 can be good for Rome, “if it helps to provoke a burst of pride.”
“Transforming Rome into a global capital at the forefront of public services and with adequate infrastructure must be the national priority,” he said.
As the Jubilee of Hope, which formally opens next December, draws near, Delle Site sees the event as an opportunity for Rome, not only as a source of spiritual inspiration and devotion, but also for businessmen and entrepreneurs who want to help the city boost its profile in the financial and tech sectors.
The jubilee, he said, is “an appointment that no one can steal from us, but Rome is seriously late.”
“Let’s look beyond the tourism and construction industries. There are three significant facts: Rome is the spiritual capital of Christianity, that is, of at least one and a half billion Catholics; it is the leading European university center; and it is the second area of the country for the number of innovative start-ups and SMEs (small and midsize enterprises), which is an expression of talent and youth creativity,” he said.
These three factors combined can help Rome to become a globally recognized model and the global capital of “ethics applied to technological innovation,” Delle Site said, saying Rome has what it takes to become the standard “of a development that puts man at the center.”
In this sense, the jubilee is “an opportunity to waive all the constraints that paralyze the city.”
The Jubilee of Hope officially runs from December 8, 2024, with the opening of the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica, through the Feast of the Epiphany in January 2026.
According to Italian Archbishop Rino Fisichella, who is spearheading the Vatican’s jubilee planning efforts, an estimated 32 million pilgrims will course through the Eternal City over the course of the jubilee period.
In the run-up to the Jubilee of 2025, the Vatican, the city of Rome and the Italian government in January unveiled an ambitious series of public works intended to make life easier for the people who come, announcing plans to spend almost $2 billion on civic projects.
However, while Delle Site complains that Rome is lagging behind in the business sector, residents are also lamenting delays in the construction projects planned in the lead up to the jubilee.
Over the summer the leading business association in Italy, Confcommercio, wrote to the mayor of Rome and other government officials demanding that they abandon plans to build a tram to carry pilgrims from Rome’s main train station, Termini, to the Vatican, which is currently projected to run down a broad stretch of Via Nazionale, one of the main arteries in Rome.
The president of the association, Pier Andrea Chevallard, called the project a “useless burden” to business owners in the area due to concerns that it won’t be finished on time, and that all those people who show up for the jubilee will be effectively shut out of the construction zone.
Chevallard proposed that work be delayed until after the jubilee is over, reflecting the conviction of Italy’s business and commercial establishment that the city is simply incapable of honoring its commitments in the time span envisioned.
City officials responded with assurances that all will be well, but residents remain unconvinced.
Locals have also taken issue with a new underground car passage being built at the base of the Via della Conciliazione, the main street leading up to St. Peter’s Basilica, which will in theory ease traffic flow and allow the above ground area to become entirely pedestrian.
While useful in principle, the project has become a headache for area residents, as the construction has completely disrupted daily life, bogging the entire area down in stop and go traffic that on average causes at least a 30-45min delay.
Locals are dubious that the project will be finished on time and are already bemoaning the massive influx of tourists and devotees predicted to flock to the city during the jubilee year.
Yet despite the various challenges on the horizon, Delle Site appeared optimistic, saying he wants to make Rome “a great hackathon to experiment with digital ways of enjoying art and culture, an intelligent, sustainable and finally safer mobility, connecting the world of research, the great energy and telecommunications giants, and encouraging the transfer of innovation cascading onto SMEs, generating jobs for the most qualified young people who are expatriating today.”
“Only a pact with businesses, in the name of subsidiarity, can relaunch the image of the capital and bring back those who have left Rome,” he said.
Follow Elise Ann Allen on X: @eliseannallen