Lorraine Lipson.

Pope Francis, in a recent letter invited young economists, entrepreneurs, and change-makers to come to Assisi in Italy to make proposals to renew economies around the world. He chose Assisi, the city of St Francis, for its significance as a symbol of humanism and fraternity, essential foundations  for well-functioning economies.  

Pope Francis is inviting advocates for a renewed economics to propose new paths to a just, inclusive, and sustainable world, without leaving anyone behind. Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development, indicated that the event is inspired by the social economy, and he warned against confusing it with ‘a socialist economy’.

The event is being organised by the Diocese of Assisi, Assisi City Council, the Seraphic Institute of Assisi, and the Economy of Communion project of the Focolare Movement. [2]

This conference provides a significant opportunity to respond concretely to his encyclical letter Laudato Si‘ to rebuild a new integral ecology, inseparable from the concept of the ‘common good’, and implemented through choices based on solidarity and ‘the preferential option for the poor’. It  seeks to address some of the structural problems of the world economy.

Pope Francis recalled that everything is intimately connected on the earth, our ‘common home’, and launched his urgent appeal to defend it and all of humanity. He warned against the careless exploitation of resources and short-sighted policies which look to immediate success without prospects for the long term.

This Assisi conference follows the 2018 Prophetic Economy event, organised by the Economy of Communion in collaboration with seven international organisations. It highlighted good economic practices oriented towards integral human development, and brought together diverse advocates for sustainability in a unique inter-generational exchange with young contributors.

Internationally renowned economist, Jeffrey Sachs, a key speaker at the event, affirmed that a ‘Prophetic economy means an economy that operates in the vision of meeting the needs of the poorest people and a vision of protecting creation. We need an economy in which prosperity is shared, that is socially fair and environmentally sustainable’.

Pope Francis spoke with participants in 2017 in the Economy of Communion project, celebrating 25 years since its inception. His address encapsulated his views relating to how money can become an idol, to sharing of profits, poverty, and the moral constraints needed in economic systems, including capitalism. He promoted ‘an economy that lets live because it shares, includes the poor, uses profits to create communion’, and is attuned to his vision for an integral ecology proposed in Laudato Si‘.

Following this special audience, the Economy of Communion project in Melbourne teamed up with Social Policy Connections in 2017 to present A People-Centred Approach for the Economy, with keynote speaker Singaporean entrepreneur Lawrence Chong, whose business provides innovation and design consultancy operating in nine countries.

With this invitation, Pope Francis wants to give a soul to the economy of tomorrow, bringing hope for future generations, for welcoming life, social equity, the dignity of workers, and the preservation of the planet.

The ‘Economy of Francis’ will consist of workshops, seminars, plenary sessions, and experts in sustainable development, who will reflect and work together with young people, exposing them to the best of economic thought and practice.

Applications to participate in the ‘Economy of Francis’ will open in June 2019.

The Economy of Communion (EoC) project of the Focolare Movement investigates how to live, work, and conduct business in an integrated way. It aims to unite entrepreneurs, their companies, customers, employees, competitors, and suppliers in a global effort to create material and spiritual abundance, and freely to share that abundance.

Lorraine Lipson is the Coordinator of the Economy of Communion Network Oceania for the Focolare Movement.

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