World Economic Forum in Turin

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Pope’s Message to Participants in 3rd World Forum of Local Economic Development

“Before and beyond plans and programs, there are concrete women and men … who live, struggle and suffer, and who must be protagonists of their destiny”

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Here is a translation of the message Pope Francis sent to the participants in the 3rd World Forum of Local Economic Development, taking place in Turin from October 13-16.

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Distinguished Gentleman


Mayor of Turin

I express my cordial greeting to you, to the Authorities and to all the participants in the 3rd World Forum of Local Development, taking place in Turin from October 13 to 16. Very opportunely, it intends to reflect on and discuss the potentialities of local economic development, as engine of a different vision of the economy, of development, of the relation with the earth and between persons. May God grant light and inspirations to this meeting, which is very important to promote the implementation of the 2013 Agenda, inclusion, the protection of the environment and integral human development. In order to offer a contribution to your endeavor, I would like to recall some ideas I expressed recently to the United Nations General Assembly about the objectives of Sustainable Development, which are a hope for humanity, on the condition that they are promoted in an appropriate way.

The effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda is urgent and indispensable. The decisions adopted by the International Community are important, but they always entail the temptation to fall into a declamatory nominalism with a tranquilizing effect on consciences. Moreover, the multiplicity and complexity of the problems requires making use of technical instruments of measurement. However, this entails a twofold danger: to limit oneself to the bureaucratic exercise of drawing up long enumerations of good resolutions — aims, objectives and indications, statistics — or to believe that just one theoretic and a priori solution can respond to all the challenges.

Political and economic action is a prudential activity, guided by a perennial concept of justice and which always has present that, before and beyond the plans and programs, there are concrete women and men, equal to the rulers, who live, struggle and suffer, and who must be protagonists of their destiny.

Integral human development and the full exercise of human dignity cannot be imposed. They are built and realized by each one, by each family, in communion with other human beings and in a just relation with the ambits in which human socialization is developed — friends, communities, villages and municipalities, schools, businesses and labor unions, provinces, nations.

In this perspective, therefore, local economic development seems to be the most adequate answer to the challenges presented to us by an often cruel, globalized economy. The Third Forum intends, rightly, to present and to discuss practices and strategies related to the local ambit in the global processes of development and to focus on the potential of such practices and strategies, as essential resources, at all levels, including the regional, national and international. I pointed out to the UN that the simplest and most appropriate measure and indicator of the fulfilment of the new Agenda for development will be the effective, practical and immediate access for all to indispensable material and spiritual goods: own dwelling, fitting and duly remunerated work, proper food and potable water; religious freedom and, more in general, freedom of spirit and education. Now I will add that the only way to truly obtain these objectives and in a permanent way, is to work at the local level. In my meetings with popular movements and with the Italian cooperatives I recalled and developed these ideas, which can be summarized in two axioms: “small is beautiful,” “small is effective.”

The recurrent global crises have demonstrated how economic decisions that, in general, seek to promote the progress of all through the generation of new consumptions and the permanent increase of profit are unsustainable for the very working of the global economy. It must also be added that they are of themselves immoral, from the moment that they leave on the margin every question on what is just and what really serves the common good. Instead, the public and private political and economic discussions should question themselves on how to integrate ethical criteria in the systems and the decisions. The fundamental accent on the local, as the Forum of Local Development wishes, seems to be one of the master ways for a true ethical discernment and for the creation of economies and businesses that are truly free: free from ideologies, free from political manipulations, and above all free from the law of profit at all cost and from the perpetual expansion of affairs, to be truly at the service of all and reintegrate the excluded in social life.

Christian social thought in Italy, through figures such as Giuseppe Toniolo, Don Sturzo and others, following the lines traced by Pope Leo XIII in the encyclical Rerum Novarum, has been able to offer an economic analysis that, beginning in fact from the local and territorial ambit, proposes options and directions for the global economy. A good part of lay social thought, beginning from different premises, also arrived at similar proposals. This vision of an economy, which goes from the local to the world, is also developed in other countries by many scholars. I limit myself here to recall Ernst Friedrich Schumacher and his famous work “Small Is Beautiful.”

Lord Mayor, I hope that these brief reflections are able to make a useful contribution to the debate and to the future activities of the Forum, in order to reinforce local development and especially to inspire the reform of great global models. Therefore, I renew my hope for the happy outcome of your meeting, while I invoke the Divine Blessing upon you, upon the other Authorities and upon the participants in the Forum, as well as upon the respective families and activities.

From the Vatican, October 10, 2015


[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]
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