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Rome summit sees moral potential in business world

27 May 2016


"Moral fight": Pope Francis speaks during a visit to the port of Mytilene, Lesbos, in April. The Pope and Orthodox leaders conducted a prayer ceremony for refugees in Mytilene, where hundreds of thousands of refugees have passed through on journeys from the Turkish coast towards Europe

"Moral fight": Pope Francis speaks during a visit to the port of Mytilene, Lesbos, in April. The Pope and Orthodox leaders conducted a prayer ce...

THE fight against poverty, migra­tion, and human suffering is “not merely a technical economic prob­lem, but above all a moral one”, the Pope has said. The refugee crisis must, therefore, be handled both practically and ethically, and in a political, social, and economic con­text.

Pope Francis was addressing faith, charity, and industrial leaders at a three-day international con­ference, Business Initiative in the Fight against Poverty, at the Vatican this month. It was organised by the Centesi­mus Annus Pro Pontifice Founda­tion (CAPP) to mark 25 years since its founder, Pope John Paul II, pub­lished Centesimus Annus, his encyclical on politics, economics, and society., for the centenary of Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum.

CAPP, a lay-led, Vatican-based organisation, was created to pro­mote the teachings of the Church among business leaders.

”As St John Paul II frequently insisted,” Pope Francis said in his opening address, “economic activity cannot be conducted in an institu­tional or political vacuum, but has an essential ethical component; it must always stand at the service of the human person and the universal common good. An economy of exclusion and inequality has led to greater numbers of the disenfran­chised and those discarded as un­­productive and useless.”

He encouraged business leaders to tackle the effects of “relative poverty and social decay” by better supporting young people.

”The rates of unemployment for the young are not only a scandal needing to be addressed first and foremost in economic terms, but also, and no less urgently, as a social ill; for our youth are being robbed of hope and their great resources of energy, creativity, and vision are being squandered.”

More than 320 people attended the conference, including banking chiefs, financial journalists, entre­preneurs, and policy-makers. The former Prime Minister of Malta Lawrence Gonzi,and Cardinal George Pell were among the panel­lists. Conference participants raised €210,000, which was given to charities supporting unaccompanied refugee children.

The secretary-general of CAPP, Eutimio Tiliacos, said: “We were very happy with this conclusion, as often people just debate various subjects in the programme without producing anything.”

Among the key speakers were the Holy See’s secretary for relations with states, the Most Revd Paul Gallagher, and the Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, who is also the president of the charity Caritas Internationalis.

Cardinal Tagle said that the “disturbing” observations made by Pope Francis suggested that “Those who used to be on the margins or fringes of society have been pushed out. . . The pursuit of inclusive growth by business and the corporate world should begin with the ‘entry’ of poor persons in our consciousness to disturb us, to teach us, and to move us to action.”

Archbishop Gallagher said that this could be achieved if the business community reacted to conflict, terrorism, and violence — particularly in the Middle East — by using “their own moral influence to help political leaders to reflect and to move public opinion” towards reconciliation.

”The destruction, the pain, the suffering, the hatred, the atrocities, and the unprecedented violations of human rights that characterise these conflicts are broadcast by the media in real time, with the risk of gener­ating, by this repeated exposure, a paralysing familiarisation and indifference,” he warned.

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