Pope Francis encourages young economists to learn from the poor

Pope Francis in the Vaticans apostolic library Nov 11 2020 Pope Francis in the Vatican's apostolic library Nov. 11, 2020. | Vatican Media/CNA.

In a video message Saturday, Pope Francis encouraged young economists and entrepreneurs from around the world to bring Jesus to their cities, and to work not only for the poor, but with the poor.

Addressing participants of the Economy of Francesco online event, the pope said Nov. 21 that changing the world is about much more than "social assistance" or "welfare:" "we are speaking of a conversion and transformation of our priorities and of the place of others in our policies and in the social order."

"Let us, then, not think for [the poor], but with them. Let us learn from them how to propose economic models that will benefit everyone…" he said.

He told young adults it is not enough to meet the essential needs of their brothers and sisters. "We need to accept structurally that the poor have sufficient dignity to sit at our meetings, participate in our discussions and bring bread to their own tables," he said.

The Economy of Francesco, sponsored by the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Development, was a Nov. 19-21 virtual event that aimed to form 2,000 young economists and entrepreneurs from around the world to "build a more just, fraternal, inclusive and sustainable economy today and in the future."

To do this, Pope Francis said in his video message, "calls for more than empty words: 'the poor' and 'the excluded' are real people. Instead of viewing them from a merely technical or functional standpoint, it is time to let them become protagonists in their own lives and in the fabric of society as a whole. Let us not think for them, but with them."

Noting the unpredictability of the future, the pope urged young adults to "not be afraid to get involved and touch the soul of your cities with the gaze of Jesus."

"Do not fear to enter courageously the conflicts and crossroads of history in order to anoint them with the fragrance of the Beatitudes," he continued. "Do not fear, for no one is saved alone."

They can accomplish much in their local communities, he said, warning them not to look for shortcuts. "No shortcuts! Be a leaven! Roll up your sleeves!" he emphasized.

Francis said: "Once the present health crisis has passed, the worst reaction would be to fall even more deeply into feverish consumerism and forms of selfish self-protection."

"Remember," he continued, "we never emerge from a crisis unaffected: either we end up better or worse. Let us foster what is good, make the most of this moment and place ourselves at the service of the common good. God grant that in the end there will no longer be 'others,' but that we adopt a style of life where we can speak only of 'us.' Of a great 'us.' Not of a petty 'us' and then of 'others.' That will not do."

Quoting St. Pope Paul VI, Francis said "development cannot be restricted to economic growth alone. To be authentic, it must be well-rounded; it must foster the development of each person and of the whole person… We cannot allow economics to be separated from human realities, nor development from the civilization in which it takes place. What counts for us is man, each individual man and woman, each human group, and humanity as a whole."

The pope called the future "an exciting time that summons us to acknowledge the urgency and the beauty of the challenges lying before us."

"A time that reminds us that we are not condemned to economic models whose immediate interest is limited to profit and promoting favourable public policies, unconcerned with their human, social and environmental cost," he stated.

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