Peace, Faith, and Economy

Published: March 16 Tue, 2021

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Peace, Faith, and Economy

Mons. Pierbattista Pizzaballa
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem

Presentation for a seminary for the “Economy of Pope Francis”

Introduction: to re-animate the economy

      At the outset, I must confess that I am not an expert in economics. The economic dynamics of the world and regions are known to me as any other citizen trying to inquire, but nothing more.

      Having invited me to speak in this context, I assume and take it for granted that the perspective from which I will have to try to analyze the theme of Peace, Faith, and Economy is that of those who live in the Middle East.

      Do not expect from me, therefore, a general analysis of social and economic problems in general. Moreover, it must be said that the situation and fate of the Middle East region are also decisive for a large part of the West and beyond. On the other hand, they are similar to many other economically depressed regions.

      The Levant region, on the one hand, is one of the richest in the world of energy resources, of which the world is increasingly hungry and therefore economically attractive. On the other hand, it is paradoxically among the most conflictual and socially depressed regions globally. Allow me, after briefly outlining the phenomenon of current globalization, to reverse the elements indicated and thus develop my presentation in three points: faith and integral human development, universal peace and fraternity, new economy, and a new man. This reversal has a precise meaning, which I hope will become more apparent at the conference. In the face of the dizzying global changes, we are witnessing and the increasingly pressing challenges from which no one can be said to be exempt, and given the interconnection that characterizes our times, it is very urgent “to re-animate the economy,” as Pope Francis said in his recent message addressed to you. The Pontiff pointed to Assisi as an ideal place and the figure of St. Francis as a point of reference for the inspiration of this new “soul” of the economy, since “from his choice of poverty springs (...) a vision of the economy that remains very topical.” [1]

      In his encyclical Fratelli tutti (2020), the Pope proposed the saint of Assisi as an icon of universal fraternity capable of  “a love that goes beyond the barriers of geography and space.”[2] For me, called to carry out my ministry in the Middle East, first as a friar, professor, parish priest, and head of the Christian community of Hebrew expression in the Holy Land, then as a guardian of Holy Land and now - in a completely unexpected way - as Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, it is very significant that Pope Francis wanted to base the encyclical Fratelli tutti on the episode of St. Francis’ visit to the Sultan of Egypt Malik-al-Kamil.[3] Thus, the Pontiff writes, at the beginning of the encyclical, about this historic meeting: “There Francis received true peace within himself, freed himself from any desire for dominion over others, made himself one of the last and tried to live in harmony with everyone. He is the reason for these pages.”[4]

Globalization and new challenges

      We are facing new and dramatic challenges globally, as demonstrated, for example, by the Covid-19 pandemic, which we are still facing and whose consequences we do not yet know, not only at the health level, but also psychological, social, political, and economic. The resulting fear marks, directly or indirectly, the life of our time and seems to have paralyzed us. 2020 was a year characterized by fear, at all levels. Everything seems to have been overturned by this infinitesimal but powerful virus that collapsed our “Tower of Babel,” also economic, which has in a short time eliminated our projects and left us disoriented. As a result of the pandemic, the economy of various nations has undergone a worrying collapse: the unemployed have increased, many industries and small businesses have had to close, the ranks of the new poor have increased at the gates of churches and charities. The future of so many governments, the economy, and labor are uncertain and, in some cases, worrying. A second example of a “globalized crisis” is the phenomenon of demonstrations – sometimes particularly violent – in various nations of the world, which, although they have specific motivations at local level, have various common foundations, such as, for example, social injustice in the arena of labor, the enormous differences of a society between a wealthy elite that has the economy and many poor people, in their hands, new forms of poverty, the serious pollution due to land use, the use of war and violence for easier access to energy resources, political violence, etc... In short, the economic theories on which international policies have been based in recent decades, often coordinated by international bodies, have not brought a fairer and more supportive world, have not erased poverty, but rather the opposite, and are now more than ever showing their failure. But these are topics that you know better than I.

      A third example is the new technologies which, while they represent a magnificent opportunity for progress for humanity, are not accessible to everyone and at the same time raise countless ethical questions.

      I briefly provided only three examples of challenges of so-called “globalization,” but I think each one could add so many others. I think you know better than I what the serious political, social, and economic distortions are in the world.

      It is no secret that religious institutions (and non-religious!) have often played a negative role in this context: sometimes they have been exploited as an element of status quo, that is, of preserving the existing state of things, sometimes – as in the Middle East, but not only – they have been used to justify violence, the exclusion of the other and injustice, or they have been incapable of being a prophetic voice that calls man to the common responsibility for justice, equality, respect for human rights, etc. Thus, many say it would be better to exclude religion from public life altogether or eliminate it.

      Western nations have developed refined theories about the need to exclude God from public life because – as they say – only in this way can true freedom be achieved. But even this theory has proved fragile. The great dictatorships of the twentieth century, for example, openly atheist and anti-religious, did not show themselves as docile and open as they set out to be. Even the famous practicing atheist, Douglas Murray, had to rethink that theory cleverly. He asserts that many optimistic atheists believed that, once they were overthrown and driven out of the scene, they could live as adults and carry on the utopian project of creating a society based on faith in ourselves. He, however, had to acknowledge that these skeptics were unfortunately skeptical about everything but the goodness of humanity.[5]

      The history of humanity, from its origins to the most recent days, demonstrates that humanity – even without God – is not necessarily good, positive, or freer.

      Globalization itself – in short – is a positive phenomenon. It is also problematic, however, when it does not place the human person as such at the center of its attention as a subject of rights and duties, but rather the global interest. The global economy has intensely changed the concept of work, the role of trade unions, the rights acquired in the previous century, exposing the worker to precariousness. The economic crises of recent years have accentuated the phenomenon that places financial interest at the center, to the detriment of the person. The religious community that insists on putting the interests of the person at the center of attention and not a generic global economic well-being, is therefore accused of stopping the path of progress, of protectionism and so on.

      The phenomenon of the migration of peoples has created incredible opportunities in terms of intercultural dialogue, but it has also created many fears. Religion is accused or uncritically welcomed by different populations or is used instrumentally to affirm and defend cultural identities as new populations advance. Moreover, in almost all migrants’ societies of origin, there is a link between religion and state, accompanied by a profound democratic deficit. In contrast, in most host countries, the secularization of societies is evident. In the face of the migratory phenomenon, therefore, there is a demand for recognition and respect, a need for knowledge of other religions in all their diversity and in their links with the different political and cultural realities. Religion, in this sense, has a fundamental role, which is to preserve the historical identity of those who welcome, serenely and critically.

      On the other hand, it has the task of making it clear that affirming an identity does not necessarily mean excluding that of others. In short, we must avoid, on the one hand, the asserting of generic, theoretical identities not linked to the history and culture of the peoples they welcome. On the other hand, it is necessary to welcome the other, serenely and without fear. Religion must also help to reflect on the category of memory, especially in the West. There is a big difference between the historical memory of the host country and the memory of migrants. They are increasingly demonstrating their desire to establish a dialogue with host societies and their desire to be recognized not only as workers and consumers but also as human beings, with their own culture, history, and tradition. In conclusion, the answer to problems of this kind is not to erase identities but to place them critically and serenely in dialogue with each other. A faith that dialogues does not water down but is enriched and strengthened.

      The global challenges, which I superficially mentioned, need a clear reaction and strong resilience. Such resilience should not be based solely on an immediate response to specific problems. We cannot, for example, restore justice, have a safe and clean environment, avoid any exploitation and respect everyone’s rights only through specific laws. Stable changes in society, in the economic field as in any other context, must be based first and foremost on spiritual renewal and cultural change, which, in turn, requires investment in education and long periods. In short, it is not the time for emergency solutions but to rethink from the root the religious and cultural models on which our policies and relations are based at all levels.

Faith and integral human development

      Faith is the experience of God, having an awareness of His presence, living in that relationship that sustains personal and social life. The believer rooted in life in God does not fear confrontation and does not feel threatened by differences because, in God, he already has everything and lacks nothing. It is therefore becoming increasingly necessary to make a recovery of the prophetic and educational meaning of religious experience. It can no longer be first and foremost a membership decided by birth or circumstances to which one adapts, but a chosen and desired experience. It is the task of religious leaders, in other words, to help their respective communities to re-focus and reappropriate what is fundamental in every personal and community religious experience and, therefore, also in their identity as believers and as citizens. That also involves being able to discern and understand what is constitutive and fundamental belongs to our faith, belongs to us, and is destined to remain always, and what, on the contrary, is the result of interpretations of a time that is no longer ours.  

      The religious experience thus lived, that is, a faith that really and fully dialogues with life, personal and social, is not only not an obstacle to development, but also becomes its driving force and solid foundation, because everything that is founded in God, is intended and to fully serve man.

      A real renewal of the economy, therefore, can never ignore even a serious and serene religious dimension or, in any case, the comparison with it.

      Against the background outlined above, we can now indicate the foundation of this renewal, of this “spring” that Pope Francis, referring to his predecessor St. Paul VI, recently addressed to you:

How good it is to allow the words of Saint Paul VI to resonate when, in the desire for the Gospel message to permeate and guide all human realities, he wrote: “Development is not reduced to simple economic growth. Development must be integral to be authentic, which means the promotion of every man and all man. [...] – each man and every man! We do not accept separating the economic from the human, the development from the civilization where it fits. What matters to us is man, every man, every group of men, to the point of understanding the whole of humanity.” In this sense, many of you will have the opportunity to act and to influence macroeconomic decisions, where the fate of many nations is at play. These scenarios also need prepared people, “prudent like snakes and as simple as doves” (Mt 10:16), able to “supervise the sustainable development of countries and to avoid the asphyxiating submission of these countries to credit systems that, far from promoting progress, subject populations to mechanisms of greater poverty, exclusion and dependence.”[6]

      The initial quotation of St. Paul VI, taken from the fifteenth paragraph of the encyclical Populorum progressio (1967), points out that limiting one’s reflections of an economic, political, or cultural nature, without these being included or open to the integral development of man and his spiritual dimension, would be clearly reductive. The concept of “integral human development,” which has deep theological and anthropological motivations, is now an indispensable cornerstone of the Church’s social doctrine and is intertwined with the challenges of globalization, the economy, and the environment, as is clear in the thought of the current Pontiff. This concept has its roots in the Encyclicals Mater et Magistra (1961) and Pacem in Terris by St. John XXIII, in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes of the Second Vatican Council (1965), according to which the improvement of the social conditions of the person must accompany economic growth[7] and have as its goal “full human expansion” of the person, including his spiritual dimension.[8] The same concept was extensively developed, in addition to the magisterium of St. Paul VI,[9] also by that of St. John Paul II[10] (cf. spec. the encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis, 1987) and Benedict XVI.[11]

      Thus, we understand how Pope Francis firmly stands on the foundation placed by the Second Vatican Council and the magisterium of his predecessors so that we can decisively mark the path that you and all must follow:

      The prospect of integral human development is good news to be prophesied and implemented – and these are not dreams. That is the way – good news to be prophesied and implemented because it proposes to us to find ourselves as humanity based on the best of ourselves: the dream of God that we learn to take charge of our brother and our most vulnerable brother (cf. Gen 4:9). “The measure of humanity is essentially determined in the relationship with suffering and sufferer – the measure of humanity –. That applies to the individual and society, a measure that must also be embodied in our decisions and economic models.

      Since Pope Francis encouraged us in the mission of “re-animating” the economy, let us, therefore, go to the soul of our theme.

Universal peace and fraternity

      Peace is the necessary premise that underscores every initiative that places the human person at the center and integral development as designed by Pope Francis or, as is often said today, sustainable. Even development for its own purpose, which does not consider the needs of creation and society, which does not consider the rights of all, can become an idol. Without peace, in short, we cannot have a serene cultural reflection that has an open and free breath, capable of proposing and building.

      In Hebrew, as we all know, peace translates Shalom. The root of this term (S.L.M.) means whole. Peace is synonymous with fullness and integrity. In other words, to truly have peace, it is necessary to be capable of a vision of human life and of the world that is integral and not partial.

      A partial approach believes that it already has clear ideas about the situation and, in a sense, rejects a critical analysis of the complexity, and where the reading of events is processed through the filter of one’s already assumed opinions. There is no room for other assessments: when there is a conflict, there is no room for nuance, and you must choose where to stay, and that is it.

      Another partial approach is also what it wants to face or try to understand what happens from a political perspective only, or only military, or merely economic, or just religious.

      Dealing with complex problems only from one perspective, excluding all the others, and without placing them in their most complete context, has led many to make mistakes even in the more recent past. The lack of an integral vision leaves room for the rise of fundamentalism, not only religion.

      Regarding the subject of peace, allow me to start with some reflections on the situation in the Middle East, a world which I know best. It is crucial to start by placing our communities in their current political, religious, and social context. What is commonly referred to as the ‘Middle East’ or ‘Arab Region’ has experienced radical change over the past three decades. Since the early 1990s, with the so-called Gulf War, a long period of anguish began, not yet ended, which radically changed the political and socio-religious balances of the whole region. The invasion by the Western countries of Iraq, with the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, is considered to be the moment when this long anguish began. Briefly and with the risk of approximation, we can say that since then, we have seen an exacerbation of the clash within the Islamic world between Sunnis and Shiites, which is also a power war between Saudi Arabia and its allies in the region, with Iran and its allies. There is, of course, the international component, with the deployment of Western countries on the one hand and Russia on the other. In the global question, we must also include interests related to energy issues and the commercial arms trade, which is always very profitable. Turkey’s role has been and remains decisive, both for the Kurdish question and its links with the Sunni world, but not only. Iraq, Yemen, and Syria are the countries that have paid the highest price in terms of human lives and tragedies of all kinds.

      The Arab spring, which seemed to be the beginning of a rebirth of the Arab world, was the beginning of a tragedy that involved the whole fertile crescent, from North Africa to Syria. The Islamic fundamentalism that has characterized mainly those countries in this period has nourished and developed in this political and social vacuum following the Arab spring, but it has also been sustained thanks to the interests and influences of part of the international community.

      Daesh is also the result of all this, although there is no denying a formation, within part of Islam, of contempt for those who are not Muslims, which has led to the extreme forms we have known. In the Middle East, one cannot obviously separate religious component from that of identity. Since sectarian struggles have been the common denominator of recent years, we cannot even separate the phenomenon of Islamic fundamentalism from the phenomenon of sectarian and identity struggles of which the whole region has been the victim and of which fundamentalism has made use.

      Finally, we must not forget the issue of displaced persons in Syria and Iraq, refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. Millions of refugees are now in those countries, with predictable economic and social consequences, without a safe perspective, neither in times nor in destinations.

      The Israeli-Palestinian question is no stranger to all these changes. The Sunni-Shiite struggle has also led to a change of strategy in some Arab countries in terms of the anti-Iranian approach to Israel. Israel and Iran are known public enemies. It is mainly the Palestinians who bear the cost, and they seem to be no longer the focus of attention even in the Arab countries. Internal weaknesses (Hamas, Fatah division) then did the rest. The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is also worrying and extremely serious. The proposal between two peoples and two states is becoming increasingly complicated, even if it remains the only ideal.

      The question of Jerusalem, the US Embassy move there, ​​returned to the center of the international debate and tensions between Israel and Palestine. The Churches clearly expressed themselves. Currently, it is impossible to think of a possible next solution since relationships between the two entities are practically non-existent.

      Christian communities have paid a very high price in this tragedy. If it is true that they were neither the first nor the only objective of the sectarian persecutions, one cannot, however, deny the very serious cost paid in terms of human lives and general impoverishment of the life of the churches.

      We find ourselves, in short, at the crossroads of epochal changes – as Pope Francis defined them – which still for a long time will be at the origin of tragedies and difficulties of all kinds for everyone.

      As one who has lived and today continues to live in the region, I also wonder: what is really happening, and how did we get to this scary situation?

      Let me now present some possible avenues for reflection on peace. The expression “ask for peace for Jerusalem” can be translated literally from Hebrew as “demand peace in Jerusalem.”

      The peace that we must invoke, and build is precisely “the peace of Jerusalem”: peace, which is not the suppression of differences, the cancellation of distances, but also a truce or a non-belligerence pact guaranteed by pacts and walls. We must strive for a peace that is a cordial and sincere welcome of the other, a tenacious will to listen and dialogue, an open road on which fear and suspicion give way to knowledge, encounter, and trust, where differences are opportunities for companionship and collaboration and not a pretext for war.

      We will increasingly have to get out of the concern to occupy physical and institutional structures, to focus more on beautiful and good life dynamics that, as believers, we can start. Of course: sometimes, even for us, the temptations of flight and resignation, the easy compromise with power, or the violent response may seem to be the only possible reaction to the difficult time we are given to live.

      In this regard, I should like to remind you here of the answer given by Mons. Pierre Claverie, Bishop of Oran in Algeria, when asked why he had ever accepted the episcopal appointment in a land torn apart by Islamic fanaticism that murdered him on August 1, 1996: “I am interested in a Church whose head can be killed like any other man.” The reference was then to the attack suffered by John Paul II. As believers and religious, we will be an “interesting” presence to the extent that our prophecy will be our daily witness because in a social and political context where overpowering, closure, and violence seem the only possible words, we will continue to affirm the way of encounter and mutual respect as the only way out, capable of leading to peace.

      Peace needs the witness of precise and robust gestures on the part of all believers, but it also needs to be announced and defended by equally exact words.

      We are therefore often at a crossroads, almost called upon to choose between the necessary denunciation of violence and abuse, always perpetrated to the detriment of the weakest, and the risk of reducing religion to a “political agent” or even to party or faction, forgetting its true nature and exposing it to easy and superficial exploitations. Our being in the world as believers cannot be confined to devotional intimacy, nor can it be limited only to the service of charity for the poorest, but is also a parrhesìa, that is, it cannot fail to express, in the manner proper to each religious experience, a judgment on the world and its dynamics (cf. Jn 16:8.11). We are well aware that in the Middle East, politics envelops ordinary life in all its aspects. Everything becomes political, and this seriously questions all our religious institutions, involved in conflicts that wear down the lives of our faithful, who await from us a word of hope, consolation, but also of truth. Here we impose a truly difficult discernment that has never been achieved once and for all.

      This does not mean being silent in the face of injustice or inviting quiet living and disengagement. The preferential option for the poor and the weak, however, does not make us a political party. Taking a stand, as we are often asked to do, cannot mean becoming part of a confrontation but must always translate into words and actions in favor of those who suffer and groan and not in invective and condemnation against someone. It can be easy and convenient, at times, to join the chorus of criticism and recriminations, and we might even get applause and consensus, but it could be a worldly temptation.

      We, believers, are also called, in short, to love and serve the polis and share with the civil authorities the concern and action for the common good, in the general interest of all and especially of the poor, always raising our voices to defend the rights of God and man, but without entering logics of competition and division.

      In the context we have outlined above, the responsibility of religious leadership, especially in the Middle East, is essential. Instead of being the religious support of less than credible political regimes, religious leadership should first cooperate with the whole best part of society in creating a new culture of legality and become a free and prophetic voice of justice, human rights, and peace. These values are not only human values, but first, they are an expression of God’s desire for people. Our contribution as religious leadership to resilience and innovation during current global challenges is not to invent the wheel again: that is, to find new and modern operational strategies, but to be ourselves, that is, credible, sincere, and passionate witnesses of God. Faith and politics, like or not, have always had a close relationship between themselves in the plan of social relations. Faith, religions have a function for the life of national communities, and politics have always had to deal with religion and its public function.

      Each generation, moreover, has always had to identify the criteria and forms to regulate the relationship between these two areas of the social life of each country. Our generation and future generations are faced with challenges that we can call unique because, in these times, it is not only a question of defining the relations between the two spheres mentioned above but also of rethinking politics and religion and their role in itself and not only concerning each other. It is not infrequently national politics and religion today that they are in the dock, accused of today’s evil, or of incapacity, backwardness, and so on.

      Religion has a fundamental role in rethinking the categories of history, memory, guilt, justice, forgiveness, which directly connect the religious sphere with the moral, social and political sphere.

      Intercultural conflicts will not be overcome unless the different and antithetic readings of one’s religious, cultural, and identity stories are re-read and redeemed. In fact, Pope Francis said:

      In many parts of the world, we need paths of peace that lead to healing wounds; we need artisans of peace who are willing to start processes of healing and renewed encounters with ingenuity and audacity.

New meetings do not mean returning to a time before conflicts. Over time, we have all changed. Pain and confrontation have transformed us. Moreover, there is no more extended room for empty diplomacy, concealment, double talk, good manners that hide reality. Those who have fought hard speak from clear and naked truth. They need to learn to exercise a penitential memory, capable of taking on the past to free the future from their own dissatisfactions, confusions, and projections. Only by the historical truth of the facts can the persevering and lasting effort to understand each other and attempt a new synthesis for the good of all be born. The reality is that “the peace process is, therefore, a commitment that lasts over time. It is a patient work of seeking truth and justice, which honors the memory of the victims and which opens, step by step, to a common hope, stronger than revenge.”[12]

      This work, as well as global, is also deeply personal, which constitutes an urgent appeal for conversion for each of us so that we may all become “artisans” of peace:

The actual processes of lasting peace are, first and foremost, artisanal transformations made by peoples, in which every person can be an effective ferment with his daily way of life. Big transformations do not build at the desk or in the studio. Therefore, “everyone plays a fundamental role, in a single creative project, to write a new page of history, a page full of hope, full of peace, full of reconciliation.” There is an ‘architecture’ of peace, in which the various institutions of society intervene, each according to its own competence, but there is also a “craft” of peace that involves us all.[13]

New economy and new man

      From what has been said so far, you can deduce that only a new man can succeed in having a new economy. If, as Christians, on the one hand, we must always keep before us the words of Jesus: “My kingdom is not from this world” (Jn 18:36), on the other hand, there is no doubt that a heart transformed by the Gospel has a very powerful influence in political, social and economic structures, so that the Gospel itself is a leaven of the Kingdom already in this world, as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the Dicastery for The Service of Integral Human Development have recently reaffirmed in a document that, especially for you, it is essential to deepen:

God comes to man in Jesus Christ. He, involving us in the admirable event of his resurrection, “not only redeemed the single person but also social relations” [8] and works for a new order of social relationships, founded in Truth and Love, which is a fruitful leaven for the transformation of history. In this way, he anticipates over time that the Kingdom of Heaven has come to proclaim and inaugurate with his person.[14]

      Moreover, it should never be forgotten that, for us Christians, what is divine and authentically Christian is also genuinely human, and vice versa, and therefore Christianity can contribute significantly to a “new humanism” and a new “civilization of love,” as stated in the same document:

The integral promotion of every person, of every human community, and all men is the ultimate horizon of that common good that the Church intends to realize as a “universal sacrament of salvation.” In this integrality of good, whose last origin and fulfillment are in God, and which has fully revealed himself in Jesus Christ, the summarist of all things (Cf. Eph 1:10), consists of the ultimate purpose of every ecclesial activity. This good flourishes as an advance of that Kingdom of God that the Church is called to proclaim and establish in every area of human undertaking; and it is the unique fruit of that charity which, as the main way of ecclesial action, is called to express itself also in social, civil, and political love. This love “manifests itself in all actions they try to construct a better world. Love for society and commitment to the common good are eminent forms of charity, which concerns not only relations between individuals but also “macro-relations, social, economic, political relationships.” That is why the Church has proposed to the world the ideal of a “civilization of love.” Love for the integral good, inseparably from love for truth, is the key to authentic development.[15]

That also means that we have a solid common basis with all “people of goodwill,” regardless of their religious faith, and that we are all called to “repair” that common home which is the world. This universal common commitment has become very clear in this long “winter” of the pandemic, which we all hope will be the result of a new “spring” and a great reset. We must, however, avoid any misunderstanding: the great reset, far from being an obscure project of the few, for us Christians is conversion, which means returning to God and to man and woman, to our brothers and sisters, especially the weakest and poorest, in the firmest defense of life in all its forms. In this time of the pandemic, therefore, we realized more than ever that we could not live as “monads,” also from an economic point of view, as Pope Francis said:

Every aspect of social, political, and economic life is fulfilled when it is at the service of the common good, that is, of the “set of conditions of social life which enable both communities and individual members to achieve their perfection more fully and more quickly.” Therefore, our plans and efforts must always consider the effects on the entire human family, weighing up the consequences for the present moment and future generations. How true and current it is the Covid-19 pandemic shows, before which “we realized that we are in the same boat, all fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and necessary, all called to row together,” because “no one saves himself” and no isolated national State can ensure the common good of its population.[16]

Let us ensure that Pope Francis’ appeal to “put in place a new economic model, the result of a culture of communion, based on fraternity and equity”[17] is not unheeded.  All this is possible only in the light of new anthropology:

Without an adequate vision of man, it is impossible to establish an ethic or a practice that is equal to his dignity and to a truly common good. In fact, however neutral or detached from any basic conception, any human action – even in the economic sphere – nevertheless implies an understanding of man and the world, which reveals its positivity or not through the effects and development it produces.[18]

      Pope Francis, especially in his two encyclicals Laudato si’ e Fratelli tutti, not by chance both inspired by St. Francis, wanted to criticize the “technocratic paradigm” which also intends to dominate the economy, so much so that this is just thought “in the operation of profit” without any thought about adverse consequences on the human person. The economy is sometimes reduced to mere finance or a market which “stifles the real economy” but which, however, cannot guarantee the integral human development mentioned above and social inclusion. The economy thus designed becomes dehumanizing and prevents the poorest from accessing basic resources.[19] According to this aberrant model, “to open up to the world” would only mean opening up to foreign interests or to the freedom of inhuman capitalism, which invests without any common good with other countries, until it becomes a global economy that is disinterested in the common good itself and which “does not make us brothers” but men “more alone than ever, in a massified world which favors individual interests and weakens the Community dimension of existence.”[20]

      Unfortunately, we often believe in the “dogma of neo-liberal faith,” according to which the market alone would solve everything. If, on the one hand, it is necessary that politics favors an economy that promotes “diversification of production and entrepreneurial creativity,” on the other hand, it deplores “financial speculation with easy profit,” which “continues to disastrous.” In reality, “the fragility of the world’s systems in the face of the pandemic has shown that not everything is resolved by market freedom” and that “in addition to rehabilitating a healthy policy that is not subject to the dictates of finance, we must put human dignity back at the center and the alternative social structures that we need must be built on that pillar.”[21]

It should not be believed, therefore, that “every acquisition of power is simply progress, an increase in security, utility, well-being, life force, the fullness of values as if reality, good, and truth spontaneously blossomed from the very power of technology and the economy.” On the contrary, the immense technological growth must be accompanied by the development of man, as regards his responsibility, his values, and his conscience, since he is not autonomous in the absolute sense and risks being “naked and exposed to his own power that continues to grow, without having the means to control it.” Thus, the economy will become unjust if a person lacks “a suitably solid ethic, a culture and a spirituality that really give him a limit and contain him within a lucid self-domination.”[22]

Conclusion

      We can therefore conclude by saying that, in a globalized and rapidly changing world, it is time not to restore it, but to start over, from the foundations. It is essential, for this to happen, to restore the space of trust. The legacy we have received brings within it an intrinsic strength, the humble and tenacious strength of a seed. And such trust does not come from human security. Trust is born only from the awareness of salvation experienced, from the joy of having found a treasure.

      It is not then a question of reconstructing walls that separate, of recreating a distance between us and the world, but of knowing how to grasp the reality of the world as an instance that challenges us today as in the past it had done with our fathers, which challenges our faith. The world is becoming more and more complex, and we could say that every facet of this complexity comes to us as a question. The world is evolving more and more complex, and we could say that every aspect of this complexity comes to us as a question. There are new questions, and this allows us to question our faith in a new way, to extract from the treasure of the Gospel new things and old things (Mt 13:52). A dialogue with the world that has its roots in our personal and community dialogue with the Lord. There is nothing of human experience that cannot be enlightened and enhanced by the experience of faith. And that is precisely our job, and only we can do it. Then something new will happen, a new man, a new economy: that what we have regained, through this process of embodying one’s faith in history, will no longer be ours alone, mine alone, yours alone, but will be for everyone, will be heritage and gift for all.

Abstract

      The challenges related to it, intends, in the light of the social doctrine of the Church and the magisterium of the recent Popes and in particular of Pope Francis, to develop the themes, closely related to each other, of faith – with particular attention to “integral human development” – of peace and universal fraternity – especially in the “warm” context of the Middle East in which there is a need for interreligious and intercultural dialogue – of the urgency, invoked by the current Pontiff, of a new economy, based on a new man in whom the Christian recognizes the traits of the New Adam, Christ.


[1] FRANCIS, Message for the event “Economy of Francis” (Assisi, 26-28 March 2020), 11 May 2019.

[2] FRANCIS, Encyclical Letter “Fratelli tutti” on fraternity and social friendship, n. 1.

[3] Cf. FRANCIS, Encyclical Letter “Fratelli tutti” on fraternity and social friendship, no. 3-4.

[4] FRANCIS, Encyclical Letter “Fratelli tutti” on fraternity and social friendship, n. 4.

[5] Based on his book: Douglas Murray, The Madness of Crowds

[6] FRANCESCO, Video message to the participants in the meeting of the international online event: "The Economy of Francis – The young people, a pact, the future" (Assisi 19-21 November 2020).

[7] Cf. JOHN XXIII, Encyclical Letter "Mater et Magistra" on recent developments in the social question, in the light of Christian doctrine, n. 68.

[8] GS 86.

[9] Cf. PAUL VI, Encyclical Letter 'Populorum Progressio', spec. Nn. 15.21.43.76-80.

[10] JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter "Sollicitudo Rei Socialis" on the 20th anniversary of the Populorum Progressio, spec. Nn. 19.28.30-31.37-38.

[11] Cf. BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter “Caritas in Veritate” on integral human development in charity and truth, spec. Nn. 21.34.48-51.78.

[12] FRANCIS, Encyclical Letter «Fratelli tutti» on fraternity and social friendship, nn. 225-226.

[13] FRANCIS, Encyclical Letter "Fratelli tutti" on fraternity and social friendship, n. 231.

[14] CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH AND DICASTERY FOR THE SERVICE OF INTEGRAL HUMAN DEVELOPMENT, ‘Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones.’ Considerations for ethical discernment about some aspects of the current economic and financial system, 17.05.2018, n. 4.

[15] CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH AND DICASTERY FOR THE SERVICE OF INTEGRAL HUMAN DEVELOPMENT, ‘Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones’. Considerations for ethical discernment about some aspects of the current economic and financial system, 17.05.2018, n. 2.

[16] FRANCIS, Message for the celebration of the LIV World Day of Peace. The culture of care as a path of peace, January 1, 2021, n. 6.

[17] FRANCIS, Message for the event “Economy of Francis” (Assisi, 26-28 March 2020), 11 May 2019.

[18] CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH AND DICASTERY FOR THE SERVICE OF INTEGRAL HUMAN DEVELOPMENT, ‘Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones.’ Considerations for ethical discernment about some aspects of the current economic and financial system, 17.05.2018, n. 9.

[19] FRANCIS, Encyclical Letter “Laudato si'” on the care of the common home, n. 109.

[20] FRANCIS, Encyclical Letter “Fratelli tutti” on fraternity and social friendship, n. 12.

[21] FRANCIS, Encyclical Letter “Fratelli tutti” on fraternity and social friendship, n. 168

[22] FRANCIS, Encyclical Letter “Laudato si'” on the care of the common home, n. 105.