Pope Francis on Friday offered advice to business leaders who want to live out the Gospel in the workplace, where he said “the Church needs your witness.”
In a meeting at the Vatican with French Catholic entrepreneurs on Jan. 7, the pope said that he wanted to share some teachings to help “carry out your role as leaders according to the heart of God.”
“I realize how demanding and difficult it can be to implement the Gospel in a competitive professional world,” Pope Francis said.
“Nonetheless, I invite you to keep your gaze fixed on Jesus Christ through your prayer life and the offering of your daily work. He had the experience on the cross of loving to the end, of fulfilling his mission to the point of giving his life.”
The pope said that Christian business leaders had their own crosses to bear, but encouraged them to endure them with the grace and confidence of knowing that Jesus has “promised to accompany us ‘to the end of the world’ (Matthew 28:20).”
“Do not hesitate to invoke the Holy Spirit to guide your choices,” Francis added.
The pope met with entrepreneurs participating in a conference entitled, “The Journey of the Common Good,” which brought 200 people together in Rome for discussions on “how to transform your company to put it at the service of the Common Good.”
Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, papal preacher Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, and French bishops’ conference president Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort attended the conference, along with a number of other French bishops, including Bishop Dominique Rey of Fréjus-Toulon.
Pope Francis outlined pairs of concepts that he said appeared to be in tension but can help bring unity to the life of a Christian. One example he gave was “authority and service.”
“Exercising authority as a service requires sharing it. Here too, Jesus is our teacher, when he sends his disciples on mission endowing them with his own authority,” he said.
“You are invited to put into practice the subsidiarity which enhances the autonomy and the capacity for initiative of all, especially of the least. … Thus, the Christian executive is called to carefully consider the place allotted to all people in his company, including those whose duties may appear to be of minor importance, because each is important in God’s eyes.”
The pope also encouraged Christian executives to be close to their employees, “to take an interest in their lives, to become aware of their difficulties, sufferings, anxieties, but also their joys, projects, hopes.”
“The mission of the Christian leader resembles, in many respects, that of the shepherd, of whom Jesus is the model, and who knows how to go before the flock to show the way, knows how to stand in the middle to see what is happening there, and also knows how to stay behind, to make sure no one loses contact,” he said.
“I have often urged priests and bishops to have ‘the smell of sheep,’ to immerse themselves in the reality of those entrusted to them, to get to know them, to be close to them. I believe this advice also applies to you.”
Last April, Pope Francis recognized the heroic virtue of Venerable Enrique Shaw, an Argentine businessman with a cause for sainthood.
Shaw was born in Paris, France, in 1921, and emigrated to Argentina, where he established himself as a businessman of outstanding integrity. He founded the Christian Association of Business Executives in 1952 and sought to apply Catholic social teaching in the workplace.
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The businessman had nine children, including one who became a priest. He wrote numerous books and articles, and established a pension fund and a healthcare plan to provide 3,400 workers with financial support in the case of illness, and loans for important life events such as marriage, birth, and death.
Pope Francis oversaw the diocesan phase of Shaw’s cause while he was serving as archbishop of the Argentine capital.
“I find it very beautiful and courageous that, in today’s world often marked by individualism, indifference and even the marginalization of the most vulnerable people, some entrepreneurs and business leaders have at heart the service of everyone and not just private interests or inner circles,” Pope Francis told the entrepreneurs.
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.
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