By Giada Aquilino
In these times of pandemic, the appeals of Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato si' on care for our common home are even more urgent in the face of "immense technological development" that over the years "has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values, and conscience" and an understanding of a right use of power (Laudato si’, 105). The Centesimus Annus pro Pontifice Foundation, a Vatican institution created through a chirograph of Saint John Paul II in 1993, is committed to studying, understanding, and applying the principles of the Church's social doctrine in every context of the modern world, especially in the fields of economics and finance.
Environment and the human person
For some time now, the Foundation, chaired by Anna Maria Tarantola, has been pursuing the "One to many" initiative, to make known how business, academic, educational, political and third sector realities are giving concrete implementation to the principles set forth in the Pope's own encyclical published in 2015. This will also be discussed at the 2021 international conference organized by Centesimus Annus, scheduled for next October and dedicated to the themes of solidarity, cooperation, and responsibility as the basis on which to build a more inclusive world. Meetings have already been held with energy companies Enel, Eni, Snam, also dedicated to technological development with respect to environmental sustainability and energy transition.
"The pandemic has highlighted the limits of technology and its relationship with human beings," notes Eutimio Tiliacos, secretary general of Centesimus Annus pro Pontifice, in a conversation with Vatican News. Technology, he explains, "poses very strong issues of an ethical nature and relationship with ethics: they are well stated in Laudato si' and taken up just as strongly in Fratelli tutti....In particular, the central theme that links these two encyclicals”, he notes, “is that of human responsibility with respect to the use of technology, the use of something that on the one hand brings benefits and on the other can cause problems, as we alter not only the environment, but in extreme cases even the human person by our actions."
Responsibility for ourselves and others
In particular, the Foundation views Laudato si' not "only" from a "green" perspective but also as "a social encyclical...The Holy Father underscored in a very strong way that there is not only an environmental crisis or only a social crisis”, recalls Tiliacos, “they are two aspects of the same problem. To do this, it is clear we need to intervene on how people think, on the mentality, on the spirit of each individual and in particular of those who have greater responsibility for the conduct of business, both from the political and economic point of view at a global level, on a national level but also on a more strictly local level."
The way forward is to adopt a "method that gives responsibility to the individual to be able to intervene on what was imperfect, wrong, or done in the past, and leads to taking responsibility for what the individual is able to do or currently doing to remedy past situations," he adds. In other words, a method "that should not be limited to noting the effects of what one does only on the immediate future, in contact with people with whom one has a relationship and concrete situations, but – as the Holy Father urges us to do - based on a broader view of responsibility towards the entire world, humanity in general. This includes even those whom we do not see and will never see because they live in different parts of the world but suffer from the effects of what we do, just as we can suffer from the effects of what others do".
From this point of view, Tiliacos explains further "the theme of sustainability is one that takes us back to the relationship between the individual and third parties, where third parties are not our wife, our children, or our colleagues, but all of humanity." He notes that "there are no frontiers, or political, or social barriers that allow us to isolate ourselves," as Pope Francis recalls in encyclical, and for that same reason “still less is there room for the globalization of indifference" (Laudato si’, 52).
A fall from which we must arise again
From this perspective, new efforts are also being focused on addressing the ongoing coronavirus emergency where the Foundation has mobilized to encourage concrete forms of charity. Pope Francis mentioned them in a letter sent to President Tarantola last year, thanking her "for her willingness to respond concretely to the pandemic by seeking to support, accompany, and stimulate projects that help to counteract" the Covid-19 health crisis.
At the 2020 Pentecost Sunday Mass, Pope Francis also emphasized that "worse than this crisis" was only "the drama of wasting it." In Laudato si', notes Paolo Garonna, professor of Political Economy at the Luiss Guido Carli University and member of the scientific committee of the Centesimus Annus Foundation, "we find the idea that in nature and in the natural and human processes of production and wealth distribution everything can be used, everything makes sense: it is kind of a providential, even eschatological, vision of economic and social processes that invites us to reject the economy of waste and one which somehow looks only at who is strong and prevails."
He adds "we can also learn from failure, therefore, even failure can serve as the fall from which we have to rise again, it serves as the crisis from which we need to learn to try to seize all opportunities." professor Garonna also notes that "this crisis will certainly lead us to new types of production, new types of social organization, and new ways of living together. It will require strong leadership. And it will require, above all, that the ethical foundations of our processes of social, economic, and political coexistence be strengthened, and without which we cannot guide and govern the future," without the risk of being "overwhelmed by uncertainty."