By Nick Sanna
Members of the Economy of Communion initiative gathered from all over the world in Rome and met with Pope Francis on February 4th, 2017
“Economy and communion. These are two words that dominant culture keeps separate and often considers as opposites. You have united these words, by welcoming the invitation that Chiara Lubich extended to you in Brazil 25 years ago. Faced with the scandal of inequality in the city of Sao Paolo, she asked entrepreneurs to become agents of communion.” These are the words that Pope Francis used to greet the 1,100 entrepreneurs, students, and scholars of the Economy of Communion (EoC) on February 4th.
“I have been genuinely interested in your project for some time.” Among those listening to Pope Francis’ words were people that consider the EoC not just as a work project, but as their lifestyle. More than 50 countries from all the continents were represented. 25 of us representing the EoC in the US and Canada participated in this event, that marked the 25th anniversary of the EoC. The meeting started on February 1st with two days of concrete workshops to learn how to coach new entrepreneurs to develop businesses imbued by the spirit of the EoC, followed by 3 days of reflections and workgroups where we assessed the status of the EoC today, reflected on the possible next steps both on a regional and on a global basis, and deepened our understanding of the EoC.
The encounter with Pope Francis was certainly the highlight of the meeting. He managed to encourage, challenge and inspire us. He commended the EoC entrepreneurs for being actors of communion and for sharing their profits for the benefit of people in need, indicating that this was the antidote to the possible idolatry of money when the accumulation (versus the circulation) of money and goods by themselves becomes the aim of our actions.
Pope Francis went on to note that although there are many public and private initiatives to fight poverty, “capitalism continues to produce discarded people whom it would then like to care for.” That’s when he challenged the EoC to do more. If the EoC wants to be faithful to its original charism, it must not only take care of the victims of capitalism but also build a system where the victims are fewer and fewer, until there are no longer any and universal fraternity is fulfilled. “Therefore, we must work towards changing the rules of the socio-economic system,” the Pope continued. “Imitating the Good Samaritan is not enough.”
“Capitalism knows philanthropy, not communion,” the Pope said. “It is simple to give a part of the profits, without embracing and touching the people who receive those ‘crumbs.’ Instead, even just five loaves and two fishes can feed the multitude if they are sharing of all our life. In the logic of the Gospel, if one does not give all of himself, he never gives enough of himself.” He concluded: “May the ‘no’ to an economy that kills become a ‘yes’ to an economy that lets live, because it shares, includes the poor, uses profits to create communion.”
This was a strong experience for all of us who traveled from North America, that compels us to elevate our ‘game’. Here are just a few of the words shared at the end of the meeting:
- “I am challenged to examine my life in terms of the Gospel and words of Pope Francis.”
- “I was inspired by the many EoC actors who shared their stories and am prompted to reconsider what I can do better towards living out the EoC principles in my life and in my business.”
- “This was a holy fine in many ways, and I feel we are being guided by the Spirit particularly now. Pope Francis has challenged us – how will we respond.”
Prof. Luigino Bruni, who heads up the International commission of the EoC, concluded the meeting by highlighting a strong parallel between the pontificate of Pope Francis and the charism of Chiara Lubich. He observed that both have used strong words against an economy that excludes, that discards, that pollutes, that kills. They both invite entrepreneurs to re-think the meaning of profits, asking them to put them freely in common to create more distributed and inclusive wealth. Both show the direction to an economy that says ‘Yes to life’. “The EoC entrepreneurs demonstrate with their companies that you can sanctify yourself not despite business, but thanks to business and that you can experience a life of fulfillment and excellence by being an entrepreneur.”
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