By Christopher Wells
The interview with Il Sole 24 Ore revolves largely around socio-economic issues, with a strong focus on the common good. Without denying the importance of individual effort, Pope Francis emphasizes that a community can only grow as a whole people; “social life,” he says, “is not constituted by the sum of individualities, but by the growth of a people.”
Real growth in the community
He says that real growth can occur in a community when we “make room to welcome everyone’s collaboration.” Real growth, he continues, is result “of relationships sustained by tenderness and mercy,” rather than an exclusive focus on success that can lead to “exclusions and waste.”
Pope Francis takes the opportunity to clarify what he means by waste: “It is not simply a phenomenon recognized as the action of exploitation and oppression, but a truly new phenomenon.” The action of exclusion doesn’t simply deprive people of power or wealth, but actually rejects them, throws them out, casts them out of society.”
A person-friendly ethics
This, he says, is why we need a “person-friendly ethics,” which he says can become a “strong stimulus for conversion.” This kind of “person-friendly ethics” can help bridge the gap between profit driven, and non-profit enterprises.
The Holy Father explains that behind every economic activity lies a human person, and insists that the human person must be at the centre of how we think of the economy. “It is work that gives dignity to man, not money.” He identifies a focus on money and profit as a consequence of an economic system “that is no longer capable of creating jobs.”
The human person at the centre
This economic system, the Pope says, has made an idol of money; but it can be opposed by a system that puts people and family at the centre. He explains that an innovative focus on the greater good, the good of the community as a whole, is ultimately better for companies than an exclusive focus on profit.
In fact, a healthy overall economy, Pope Francis says, “is never disconnected from the meaning of what is produced; and economic activity is always also an ethical fact. He points to the teaching of Pope Leo XIII that free trade is not sufficient of itself to ensure justice; and says that what Leo said of individual contracts is also true of international trade. Quoting Bd Paul VI, Pope Francis says, “Free trade can be called just only when it conforms to the demands of social justice.”
Work and the dignity of the person
Asked about the feeling, experienced by many people, that work is a burden, “an unbearable routine,” Pope Francis says that everyone realizes that it is better to have a job than to not work. Working, he says, “is good because it is linked to the dignity of the person, to his ability to take responsibility for himself and others.” He also describes “the high spiritual meaning” of work, by which, he says, “we give continuity to creation by respecting it and taking care of it.”
Pope Francis also speaks on a number of other issues in his interview. He calls on Companies to pay more attention to “Working to build the common good”. Noting that most Companies provide professional and technical training, he suggests they do the same with regard to values. “We have reached the limits of what we call our common home”, he says, to the point that we are planning to colonize new planets. “Humanity is no longer the custodian of the earth but a tyrant exploiter.” That is why, whenever we talk about the environment, we are really talking about humanity: “Environmental degradation and human degradation go hand in hand,” says the Pope. “Ecological consciousness needs new ways of living that build a harmonious future, promote integral development, and reduce inequality.” Pope Francis cites his Encyclical Laudato sì, when he confirms that, in order to guarantee resources for future generations, we need to “limit the use of non-renewable resources, moderate consumption, reuse and to recycle.”
Pope Francis acknowledges the challenge posed by migrants, especially to those who living in affluent countries: “Yet there is no peaceful future for humanity except in the acceptance of diversity, solidarity, in thinking of humanity as one family.” he states. Hope is what unites those who leave their homes with those who welcome them. Hope is what drives us to “share the journey of life,” he says, encouraging us not to be afraid “to share hope.” We need to stop talking about numbers, and start talking about people.
“Europe needs hope and a future,” says Pope Francis. “We never stop being witnesses of hope, we widen our horizons without consuming ourselves in the preoccupation of the present.” Returning to the issue of migration, the Pope recalls the importance of migrants being “respectful of the culture and laws of their host country” so as to favor integration and overcome fear and worry. “I also entrust these responsibilities to the prudence of governments,” he says, “so that they may find common ways to give dignified welcome to our many brothers and sisters who call for help.”
The interview concludes with Pope Francis referencing his Message for the World Day of Peace this year in which he outlines what he calls “four milestones for action: welcome, protect, promote and integrate.” It is always important that our projects and proposals be inspired by “compassion, vision and courage,” he says, “so as to seize every opportunity to advance the construction of peace.” This is the only way to ensure that “the necessary realism of international politics does not surrender itself to disinterest and the globalization of indifference.”