Pope Francis received the participants in the “Economy and Communion” Meeting, organized by the Focolare Movement (February 1-5, Mariapolis Center, Castelgandolfo, Rome) in audience on 12:15 Saturday in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall. Here is the Vatican-provided translation of the Pope’s address to the some 1,100 present:
I am pleased to welcome you as representatives of a project in which I have been genuinely interested for some time. I convey my cordial greeting to each of you, and I thank in particular the coordinator, Prof. Luigino Bruni, for his courteous words. And I thank you for your testimonies.
Economy and communion. These are two words that contemporary culture keeps separate and often considers opposites. Two words that you have instead joined, accepting the invitation that Chiara Lubich offered you 25 years ago in Brazil, when, in the face of the scandal of inequality in the city of São Paulo, she asked entrepreneurs to become agents of communion. She invited you to be creative, skilful, but not only this. You see the entrepreneur as an agent of communion. By introducing into the economy the good seed of communion, you have begun a profound change in the way of seeing and living business. Business is not only incapable of destroying communion among people, but can edify it and promote it. With your life you demonstrate that economy and communion become more beautiful when they are beside each other. Certainly the economy becomes more beautiful, but communion is also more beautiful, because the spiritual communion of hearts is even fuller when it becomes the communion of goods, of talents, of profits.
In considering your task, I would like to say three things to you today.
The first concerns money. It is very important that at the centre of the economy of communion there be the communion of your profits. The economy of communion is also the communion of profits, an expression of the communion of life. Many times I have spoken about money as an idol. The Bible tells us this in various ways. Not by chance, Jesus’ first public act, in the Gospel of John, is the expulsion of the merchants from the temple (cf. 2:13-21). We cannot understand the new Kingdom offered by Jesus if we do not free ourselves of idols, of which money is one of the most powerful. Therefore, how is it possible to be merchants that Jesus does not expel? Money is important, especially when there is none, and food, school, and the children’s future depend on it. But it becomes an idol when it becomes the aim. Greed, which by no coincidence is a capital sin, is the sin of idolatry because the accumulation of money per se becomes the aim of one’s own actions. It was Jesus, really Him, who defined money as a “master”: “No servant can serve two masters”. There are two of them, the anti-God, and the idol. Jesus said this. At the same level of choice. Think about this.
When capitalism makes the seeking of profit its only purpose, it runs the risk of becoming an idolatrous framework, a form of worship. The ‘goddess of fortune’ is increasingly the new divinity of a certain finance and of the whole system of gambling which is destroying millions of the world’s families, and which you rightly oppose. This idolatrous worship is a surrogate for eternal life. Individual products (cars, telephones …) get old and wear out, but if I have money or credit I can immediately buy others, deluding myself of conquering death.
Thus, one understands the ethical and spiritual value of your choice to pool profits. The best and most practical way to avoid making an idol of money is to share it with others, above all with the poor, or to enable young people to study and work, overcoming the idolatrous temptation with communion. When you share and donate your profits, you are performing an act of lofty spirituality, saying to money through deeds: you are not God, you are not a lord, you are not a master! And do not forget also that high philosophy and that high theology that told our grandparents: “The devil enters through the pockets.” Do not forget this!
The second thing I would like to say to you concerns poverty, a central theme of your movement.
Today, many initiatives, public and private, are being carried out to combat poverty. All this, on the one hand, is a growth in humanity. In the Bible, the poor, orphans, widows, those ‘discarded’ by the society of those times, were aided by tithing and the gleaning of grain. But most of the people remained poor; that aid was not sufficient to feed and care for everyone. There were many ‘discarded’ by society. Today, we have invented other ways to care for, to feed, to teach the poor, and some of the seeds of the Bible have blossomed into more effective institutions than those of the past. The rationale for taxes also lies in this solidarity, which is negated by tax avoidance and evasion which, before being illegal acts, are acts which deny the basic law of life: mutual care.