Papal Address to Italian Business Leaders

«Work Is a Good for Man, for the Family and for Society»

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 18, 2010 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving in audience when he met with a group of Italian business leaders at the Vatican.

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Distinguished President,
Illustrious Gentlemen and Ladies,
I am happy to address my cordial welcome to each one of you, on the eve of the feast of St. Joseph, who is an example for all those who operate in the world of work. I address my deferent thought to Doctor Aurelio Regina, President of the Union of Industrialists and Managers of Rome, thanking him for the courteous words he addressed to me. With him I greet the Junta and the Association’s Executive Council.
The Roman business reality, made up in great part by small and medium enterprises, is one of the most important territorial associations belonging to Confindustria [the Italian Employers’ organization], which today operates also in a context characterized by globalization, by the negative effects of the recent financial crisis, by the so-called «financialization» of the economy of businesses themselves. It is a complex situation, because the present crisis has sorely tested the economic and productive systems of several countries. Nevertheless, it must be lived with confidence, because it can be considered as an opportunity from the point of view of the revision of models of development and of a new organization of the world of finance, a «new time» — as has been said — of profound revision.
In the social encyclical «Caritas in Veritate,» I observed that we come from a phase of development in which the material and technical has been favored, as opposed to the ethical and spiritual, and I encouraged to put the person at the center of the economy and of finance (cf. No. 25), whom Christ reveals in his most profound dignity. Proposing, in addition, that politics not be subordinated to financial mechanisms, I called for the reform and creation of international juridical and political ordering (cf. No. 67), to be given to global structures of the economy and of finance, to obtain more effectively the common good of the human family. Following in the footsteps of my predecessors, I reaffirmed that the increase of unemployment, especially of youth, the economic impoverishment of many workers and the emergence of new forms of slavery, exact as a priority objective access to fitting work for all (cf. Nos. 32 and 63). What guides the Church in being a promoter of a similar objective is the conviction that work is a good for man, for the family and for society, and it is source of liberty and responsibility. Obviously involved in achieving these objectives, together with other social entities, are businessmen, who must be particularly encouraged in their commitment to the service of society and of the common good.
No one ignores the many sacrifices that must be faced to open or maintain one’s own business in the market, as «community of persons» that produces goods and services and that, consequently, does not have profit, though necessary, as its sole objective. In particular small and medium businesses are increasingly in need of financing, in as much as credit seems less accessible and competition in the globalized markets is very strong, especially on the part of those countries where there are no — or minimal — systems of social protection for workers. From this stems the fact that the high cost of work makes the products and services themselves less competitive, and no small sacrifices are required to not dismiss one’s dependent workers and to allow them professional updating.
In this context it is important to be able to conquer that individualist and materialist mentality which suggests removing investments from the real economy to favor the employment of one’s capital in the financial markets, dedicated to easier and swifter returns. I take the liberty to remind that instead, the safest ways to address the decline of the business system of one’s country consist in networking with other social realities, in intervening in research and innovation, in not practicing unjust competition between businesses, in not forgetting one’s social duties and in stimulating a productivity able to respond to the real needs of people.

There are several proofs that the life of a business depends on its attention to all the individuals with whom it establishes relations, of the ethicality of its plan and its activity. The financial crisis itself has shown that in a market shocked by the chain of failures, those economic individuals have endured who are capable of keeping to moral behavior and are attentive to the needs of their own territory. The success of Italian business, especially in some regions, has always been characterized by the importance assigned to the network of relations that it has been able to weave with workers and other business realities, through relations of mutual collaboration and trust. A business can be vital and produce «social wealth» if what guides businessmen and managers is a vision of the future, which prefers long-term investment to speculative profit and that promotes innovation rather than thinking of accumulating wealth for its own sake.
The businessman who is attentive to the common good is called to see his own activity always in the framework of a plural whole. This attitude generates, through personal dedication and fraternity lived concretely in economic and financial choices, a more competitive and at the same time more civilized market, animated by the spirit of service. Clearly a simple business logic presupposes certain motivations, a certain vision of man and of life; that is, a humanism that is born from the awareness of being called as individuals and as community to form part of the one family of God, who has created us in his image and likeness and has redeemed us in Christ; a humanism that revives charity and allows itself to be guided by truth; a humanism open to God and, precisely because of this, open to man and to life understood as a solidaristic and joyous task (cf. No. 78). Development, in any sector of human existence, also implies openness to the transcendent, to the spiritual dimension of life, to trust in God, to love, to fraternity, to hospitality, to justice, to peace (cf. No. 79). I wish to stress all this while we are in Lent, appropriate time for the revision of our own profound attitudes and to question ourselves on the consistency between the aims to which we tend and the means we use.
Distinguished gentlemen and ladies, I leave you these reflections. And while I thank you for your visit, I wish every good for the economic activity, as also for the associative activity, and I impart to you willingly and to your loved ones my Blessing.
 [Translation by ZENIT]

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