VATICAN CITY (CNS) – On the same day, Pope Francis dedicated his general audience address to explaining “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” as high-level finance ministers and economic experts gathered nearby to propose concrete solutions to overcome chronic global inequalities, instability and injustice.
People do not like to accept the truth of this beatitude, the pope told visitors in the Paul VI Audience Hall on February 5, because it prevents them from attaining fame and fortune, but it also always leaves them “radically incomplete and vulnerable”.
This same sense that there is something radically inadequate and vulnerable in today’s economic policies and financial systems has drawn dozens of experts and finance ministers to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences for a full day of discussions and calls.
The top “global decision makers” all agree on the root causes of unsustainable inequality and are adamant about their commitment to preventing another global financial crisis, said Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA Network and guest observer at the gathering of the Vatican.
He told Catholic News Service that the problem lies in finding consensus on the solutions, “the paths for countries to come out of the debt crisis and the financial crisis and also to build a more inclusive and where there is less distinction between the haves”. and the poor.
The first step towards developing “New Forms of Solidarity: Towards Fraternal Inclusion, Integration and Innovation”, as the meeting was titled, was first to bring together these major players.
Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund and a leading voice warning that the global economy is at risk of a major depression, told reporters that the Vatican venue was ideal for such talks.
“First, because we have a pope who is very caring and highly respected by people of all religions and who has demonstrated in his own life that high reputation and modesty can go hand in hand,” he said. she declared.
Second, she added, “the academy is a place that is open to different viewpoints, not narrow-mindedness that might get in the way of good dialogue.”
The meeting participants agreed that it was no longer acceptable for science to consider any market philosophy or policy to be “natural”, invisible or inevitable, but that economics is about picking and choosing rules and specific frameworks.
“Inequality is a choice,” said Joseph E. Stiglitz, academy member, Nobel laureate and former chief economist of the World Bank.
The continued concentration of wealth in the hands of a few and growing economic disparity is not “just a matter of the laws of nature or the laws of economics, but to a large extent is the result of our man-made policies and laws”. he said in his opening speech.
The current and impending crises make it clear that “we made the wrong choices” and that it is time for a new path, “an alternative economic system and an alternative globalisation” that puts people and values first, has he declared.
Pope Francis understands that what is at stake is not just calling for more ethical behavior from the leaders of the system, but real reform of the system and how it works.
His biographers have noted how his long experience of ministry in the slums of Buenos Aires, Argentina, gave him unique insight into how a nation rich in promise could be so crippled by financial crisis and corruption.
LeCompte said, “Pope Francis has really led his country as he struggled against a type of predatory finance known as vulture funds,” as he continues the same social teaching as his papal predecessors, “we see the Holy See talking more about very technical economic policies such as derivatives, taxation and illicit financial flows.
“There is a real feeling from this Holy Father that if we really want to change the structures that govern our economy, we have to be able to tackle these technical issues head-on,” he said.
The pope, in fact, made a point of stopping at the pontifical academy at the start of the afternoon. And his long and detailed written speech continued to hammer home basic and reasonable ethical principles: an end to money laundering, the arms industry and the tax havens that drain billions from national economies; stop repeated tax cuts for the wealthy; and ease the burden of crippling and unsustainable debt, to name a few.
LeCompte said many of the proposed solutions “are those that Jubilee has been advocating for over 20 years, and we have worked closely with the Holy See to develop these positions, as well as with all other major religious institutions around the world. “.
Just as the pope’s encyclical, ‘Laudato Si’, sets out a clear way to examine current structures and uphold the values of global solidarity and environmental and economic justice, the February 5 gathering was a continuation of this call for a fairer world. .
“We actually have a very clear path that needs to be taken,” LeCompte said, which begins with God creating a rich and abundant world.
And, he said, the path leads to that “jubilee promise that Pope John Paul II was the first to exclaim – that we all deserve to live in an economy where we all have enough.”