Economy of Francesco: Young people are 'protagonists of change'
By Thaddeus Jones
A press conference hosted by the Holy See Press Office on Tuesday morning presented the forthcoming “Economy of Francesco” meeting in Assisi that will take place from 22-24 September in the city of Saint Francis' birthplace.
Long in the making
The long-awaited event is a culmination of over three years of study and online-only meetings due to the pandemic. The initiative takes up Pope Francis' 2019 appeal to young people to meet, discuss, brainstorm and share ideas for a better world economy that puts the human person at its center. Pope Francis will participate in the events when he travels to Assisi on Saturday, 24 September.
A global movement
The “Economy of Francesco” has become a global movement of young people of all walks of life and expertise who aim to change the current economic models and craft a future that is more inclusive and just.
In 2019, Pope Francis asked economists and young people to give life to the idea of a different kind of economy, one that is more attentive to the weakest members of society and is not focused exclusively on the gain of material wealth. Due to the pandemic, the global meetings to promote the work took place online, and now finally around one thousand young people and world reknowned economists will meet together in person in Assisi for the September summit.
Young leading the way
At the press conference on Tuesday morning, Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, and of Foligno, as well as Chairman of the "Economy of Francesco" Organizing Committee, presented the event saying that "young people are the protagonists," of the initiative.
He explained how it took form almost four years ago when Pope Francis spoke about the need for the world economy to be renewed with the human person front and center, and to bring young economists and entrepreneurs into the discussions and brainstorming, drawing on their fresh outlook, enthusiasm and creativity.
Change for the better
Archbishop Sorrentino recalled the Pope's letter to young economists and entrepreneurs worldwide, explaining his reasoning for this initiative and the need to "enter into a 'covenant' to change today’s economy and to give a soul to the economy of tomorrow," with the figure of Saint Francis of Assisi being a model and inspiration for them. That is also why the Economy of Francesco meeting is taking place in the Saint's birthplace of Assisi, also to allow for visits to the Saint's places of ministry and draw inspiration for their meetings and discussions.
The Archbishop noted the twelve macro themes to be discussed over the three days in the special groupings called 'villages'. The topics include: Agriculture and Justice, Life and Life-Style, Vocation and Profit, Work and Care, Management and Gift, Finance and Humanity, Policies for Happiness, Business and Peace, Women for Economy, Energy and Poverty, Businesses in Transition, and CO2 of Inequalities.
Also noted is the stark global background against which the meeting will take place: wars in Ukraine and other parts of the world, the shock to the global economy, extreme climatic events, all situations at the root cause of immense suffering.
Fruit of a long process
Sister Alessandra Smerilli, F.M.A., Secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Delegate for the Vatican Commission for Covid-19, and Member of the Academic Committee of the "Economy of Francesco", spoke briefly and answered journalists' questions.
She noted how expectations have been buiding for this global encounter for years now, and finally young economists and entrepreneurs can meet in person and discuss years of work on these themes, while developing concrete responses. She underscored that this is not just an event, but the fruit of a process underway that sees young people as the protagonists of a global network to change the economy for the better.
She likened the project as one that brings together the most salient ideas and inspirations from both the papal encyclicals Laudato si' and Fratelli tutti, saying it is joy to accompany them, an achievement for the whole Church, and a contribution to the local churches.
How the young see it
The young economists and students present spoke about their own roles in the upcoming summit. Lourdes Hércules, a journalist from Guatemala, and staff member of the "Economy of Francesco" explained the program of the event, how the meetings are organized, and how the twelve thematic groups will contribute to their work in the overall sessions.
Tainã Santana, a student in economics from Brazil, spoke about how he became involved in the movement since it responded to a need he felt to respond to the cry of the poor in his own country. He noted how in his own studies of economics that the human dimension was often missing. This did not seem right to him, and when he heard about Pope Francis' writings on this subject, this moved him to go forward and get involved.
Aiza Asi, a doctoral student in Economics and Management from the Philippines and Giulia Gioeli, a doctoral student in Science of Civil Economy in Italy then offered their own perspectives.
Aiza Asi stressed the need for a paradigm change in how we live together, saying society must come together to address the climate change emergency affecting so many parts of the world. Giulia Gioeli offered ideas drawn from her doctoral studies in medieval history on how Saint Francis of Assisi at his time offered some innovative ways forward that could give us some helpful ideas today for addressing inequalities.