Pope Francis signs the Economy of Francesco Covenant, which he hopes will build “an economy of the Gospel.”
Young people from conflict areas shared emotional testimonies and calls to combat an economy that fuels war by building trust and peace.
Pope Francis with young people at World Youth Day 2016 in Poland.
is Catholic News Agency’s senior Rome correspondent. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has a degree in English from Truman State University in Missouri.
By: Hannah Brockhaus
In a September address, Pope Francis lamented the loss of spiritual meaning in the lives of many young people today — a lack that is often replaced by an undue focus on material goods, he said.
“Human beings, created in the image and likeness of God, are seekers of meaning before being seekers of material goods. That is why the first capital of any society is spiritual capital,” he said at an international conference on the economy in Assisi, Italy, on September 24.
“Young people especially suffer from this lack of meaning,” the pope said. “Faced with the pain and uncertainties of life, they often find their souls depleted of the spiritual resources needed to process suffering, frustration, disappointment, and grief.”
“Look at the youth suicide rate, how it has gone up,” he added.
“Technology can do much: it teaches us the ‘what’and the ‘how,’ but it does not tell us the ‘why,’” he said, “and so our actions become sterile and do not bring fulfillment to life, not even economic life.”
Pope Francis spoke about the importance of spirituality in an address to participants in The Economy of Francesco, a conference for young economists, entrepreneurs, and researchers from around the world.
The initiative followed a call from Pope Francis to young people to build “a different kind of economy” based on greater care for the poor and the environment. Francis traveled to Assisi for the final day of the meeting on September 24. Before addressing attendees, the pope watched a skit based on Isaiah 21:1–12, followed by a meditation on the meaning of the Scripture passage.
There was also a musical performance, presentations, a video of the first two days of the conference, and participant testimonies from economists, as well as activists for the environment, women’s rights, and social issues from Italy, Benin, Argentina, Thailand, Kenya, Afghanistan, and Poland.
“I am counting on you”
Throughout his speech, Pope Francis emphasized the need for young adults to put their energy and creativity to good, practical, use to build a more just economy.
“You young people, with the helpof God, know what to do, you can do it,” he said.
“According to Scripture, young people are the bearers of a spirit of knowledge and intelligence. It was the young David who humbled the arrogance of the giant Goliath,” he pointed out.
“Indeed,” he continued, “when civil society and businesses lack the skills of the young, the whole of society withers and the life of everyone is extinguished. There is a lack of creativity, optimism, enthusiasm. A society and an economy without young people is sad, pessimistic, and cynical.”
“I say this with seriousness: I am counting on you. Please don’t leave us undisturbed, and lead by example.”
“Poor at the center”
The pope also reflected on the example of St. Francis of Assisi and what it means to help the marginalized. “Developing an economy inspired by [St. Francis] means committing ourselves to putting the poor at the center,” he said.
“Starting with them, we look at the economy; starting with them, we look at the world,” he noted. “There is no ‘Economy of Francesco’ without respect, care, and love for the poor, for every poor person, for every fragile and vulnerable person — from conception in the womb to the sick person with disabilities, to the elderly person in difficulty.”
“As long as our system ‘produces’ discarded people, and we operate according to this system, we will be accomplices of an economy that kills,” he underlined, challenging young economists to ask themselves if they are doing enough to change structures, or if they are content with just slapping a coat of paint on the house.
“Perhaps our response should not be based on how much we can do but on how we are able to open new paths so that the poor themselves can become protagonists of change,” he said.
He closed his address with a prayer to God the Father, asking his “forgiveness for having damaged the earth, for not having respected indigenous cultures, for not having valued and loved the poorest of the poor, for having created wealth without communion.”
“Living God, who with your Spirit have inspired the hearts, hands, and minds of these young people and sent them on the way to a promised land, look kindly on their generosity, love, and desire to spend their lives for a great ideal. Bless them in their undertakings, studies, and dreams; accompany them in their difficulties and sufferings, help them to transform their difficulties and sufferings into virtue and wisdom,” he prayed.