Assisi summit to focus on pope’s challenge to ‘pathological’ economy

Assisi summit to focus on pope’s challenge to ‘pathological’ economy

Pope Francis arrives for a lunch with poor people in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. Pope Francis is offering several hundred poor people, homeless, migrants, unemployed a lunch on Sunday as he celebrates the World Day of the Poor with a concrete gesture of charity in the spirit of his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi. (Credit: AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino.)

The Assisi event, titled “The Economy of Francis,” scheduled for Nov. 19-21 is designed to bring together some 4,000 young advanced economics students, managers of social enterprises, Nobel Prize winners and officials from international organizations.

ROSARIO, Argentina – An Argentine priest and activist says a major summit set for November in the iconic Italian city of Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis, will showcase the vision of the pope who took Francis’s name for a sweeping, person-centered reform of the “pathological” state of the global economy.

“Pope Francis from Evangelii Gaudium to Laudato Si has extended an invitation to implement a new economic model that puts the human person at the center and that reduces unjust inequalities,” said Father Claudio Caruso, who leads Cronica Blanca, a civil organization that brings together young men and women to explore the Church’s social teaching.

Caruso has organized an online panel to promote the November summit for Monday, June 27, including two key voices in Francis’ fight against what he calls a “throw-away culture:” fellow Argentine Father Augusto Zampini and Italian professor Stefano Zamagni. The event is open and will be conducted in Spanish.

Zampini was recently appointed as adjunct secretary of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Integral Human Development. Zamagni is a professor at the University of Bologna, but he’s also the President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, making him one of the highest-ranking laymen at the Vatican.

They will be joined by Martin Redrado, former president of Argentina’s national bank (2004/2010), and Alfonso Prat Gay, also former president of the bank of Pope Francis’ country, and minister of economy from 2015/2016.

The panel is designed to be part of the build-up to the Assisi event, titled “The Economy of Francis,” scheduled for Nov. 19-21, after the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic forced its postponement in March. It’s designed to bring together some 4,000 young advanced economics students, managers of social enterprises, Nobel Prize winners and officials from international organizations.

Before the event was postponed, Zampini spoke with Crux about what the proposal for a new economic model means.

“How do you accomplish a just transition from a fossil fuel-based economy to one of renewable energies, without the poorest paying for this transition?” he asked. “How do we answer the cry of the poor and of the earth, how do we generate an economy that serves, centered on people, so that finances serve the real economy? These are things Pope Francis says, and we’re trying to see how to put them in practice. And there are many who are doing so.”

Redrado told Crux that “The Francis Economy” is a “search for a new approach, for a new economic paradigm that fights against injustice, poverty, inequality.”

“It’s the search for a more humane model of capitalism, that eliminates the inequities that the world economic system presents,” he said, noting that these inequalities are also visible within each different country.

He decided to participate in the panel because, ever since he studied economics in Buenos Aires National University, he’s been marked by Christian social doctrine, particularly Jacques Maritain, a French Catholic philosopher and author of over 60 books who advocated an “Integral Christian Humanism” based on the spiritual dimension of human nature.

Maritain’s book “Integral Humanism” in particular moved this economist to understand what Francis Fukuyama said after the fall of the Berlin Wall, meaning, that capitalism is not the end of history, but poses new challenges to continue looking for a more integral economic model.

“That search is the one that Pope Francis leads today with his moral, intellectual, and religious leadership, pushing us and motivating economists and public policy makers to look for new answers to the challenges that the world poses to us,” Redrado said.

These challenges were there before the pandemic but have been “highlighted with much more virulence by this health crisis that the world is experiencing.”

Redrado believes a more supportive economic model is necessary, and above all, one that promotes “upward social mobility, the possibilities of being able to improve, of being able to progress.” This is not possible in many countries today, he acknowledged, with millions around the world born into poverty and who don’t have the infrastructure nor aid from either the state or private institutions that allows them to improve their realities.

“Without a doubt, this pandemic has marked social inequalities more than ever,” he said. “One of the great post-pandemic issues [is] to promote equality to connect the disconnected, with broadband and with our children who have access to information technologies that allow them to access better paid forms of work.”

Redrado also expects the post-coronavirus fallout to have lasting, if unpredictable, implications for politics.

“I think that the actors will have to be evaluated at the end of the pandemic, and each society will make an evaluation re-elect or not the current authorities. It is still too early to talk about the impact it will have on political and social actors, but without a doubt we will have a deep reflection from each of the societies and also from the ruling classes,” he said.

“My impression is that going forward, our societies will be much more demanding with our leaders, and those who do not understand it will obviously be out of the way,” Redrado said.

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma

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