Pope Francis Calls for New Economic Model to Rebuild Post-Coronavirus World

The series of addresses touched on themes that he is expected to develop in his new encyclical, Fratelli tutti, which will be published on Sunday.

Pope Francis during his weekly general audience on September 23, 2020.
Pope Francis during his weekly general audience on September 23, 2020. (photo: Daniel Ibanez / CNA)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis called Wednesday for a new economic model to help rebuild the world after the coronavirus pandemic. 

In his general audience address in the San Damaso Courtyard, within the Vatican’s apostolic palace, Sept. 30, the pope criticized “trickle-down theory,” which proposes that tax breaks for high-earners will ultimately yield economic benefits for the rest of society.

He said: “And certainly we cannot expect the economic model that underlies unfair and unsustainable development to solve our problems. It has not and will not, because it cannot do so, even though some false prophets continue to promise the ‘trickle-down’ that never comes.” 

He added: “You have heard yourselves, the theory of the glass: it is important that the glass is full, and then overflows to the poor and to others, and they receive wealth. But there is a phenomenon: the glass starts to fill up and when it is almost full it grows, it grows and it grows, and never overflows. We must be careful.”

Today’s general audience address concluded a catechetical cycle entitled “Healing the world,” which the pope launched Aug. 5. The cycle focused on how the Church’s social doctrine can help the world to recover from the ravages of COVID-19, which has killed more than a million people worldwide. 

The series of addresses touched on themes that he is expected to develop in his new encyclical, Fratelli tutti, which will be published on Sunday.

The audience began with a reading in several languages from Hebrews 12:1-2, in which St. Paul the Apostle urges Christians to keep their “eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.”

Reviewing the catechetical cycle, the pope said: “In recent weeks we have reflected together, in the light of the Gospel, on how to heal the world that is suffering from a malaise that the pandemic has highlighted and accentuated. The malaise was already there: the pandemic highlighted it more, it accentuated it.” 

“We have walked the paths of dignity, solidarity and subsidiarity, paths that are essential to promote human dignity and the common good. And as disciples of Jesus, we have proposed to follow in His steps, opting for the poor, rethinking the use of material goods and taking care of our common home.” 

He continued: “In the midst of the pandemic that afflicts us, we have anchored ourselves to the principles of the social doctrine of the Church, letting ourselves be guided by faith, by hope and by charity. Here we have found solid help so as to be transformers who dream big, who are not stopped by the meanness that divides and hurts, but who encourage the generation of a new and better world.”

He challenged pilgrims, who were sat spaced apart in the courtyard as a safety measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, to keep their eyes fixed on Christ. 

“Jesus, who renews and reconciles every creature, gives us the gifts necessary to love and heal as He knew how to do, to take care of all without distinction on the basis of race, language or nation,” he said.

To prepare for this healing mission, he explained, it was essential to “contemplate and appreciate the beauty of every human being and every creature,” recognizing Christ especially in the poor and suffering. 

He said that Christians were called to help society emerge from the pandemic in “a human way,” rather than a “mechanical way,” displaying the tenderness that is “the very sign of Jesus’ presence.”

He said: “A small virus continues to cause deep wounds and to expose our physical, social, and spiritual vulnerabilities. It has laid bare the great inequality that reigns in the world: inequality of opportunity, inequality of goods, inequality of access to health care, inequality of technology, education: millions of children cannot go to school, and so the list goes on.” 

“These injustices are neither natural nor inevitable. They are the work of man, they come from a model of growth detached from the deepest values ... And this has made many people lose hope and has increased uncertainty and anguish. That is why, to come out of the pandemic, we must find the cure not only for the coronavirus -- which is important! -- but also for the great human and socio-economic viruses.”

He continued: “We need to set to work urgently to generate good policies, to design systems of social organization that reward participation, care and generosity, rather than indifference, exploitation and particular interests.” 

“We must go ahead with tenderness. A fair and equitable society is a healthier society. A participatory society — where the “last” are taken into account just like the “first” — strengthens communion. A society where diversity is respected is much more resistant to any kind of virus.”

Concluding the address with a reflection on the kingdom of heaven, he said: “May God grant us to ‘viralize’ love and to ‘globalize’ hope in the light of faith.”

After his address, the pope offered a special greeting to new seminarians who arrived recently in Rome to begin their formation at the Pontifical North American College, as well as to deacons. 

He said: “May the Lord sustain their efforts to be faithful servants of the Gospel. Upon all of you and your families I invoke the joy and peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ. God bless you!”

Greeting Polish pilgrims, the pope noted that October is traditionally dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary. 

“Be faithful to your custom of praying the rosary in your communities and especially in your families,” he said. “Reflecting every day on the mysteries of Mary’s life in the light of the salvific work of her Son, let her participate in your joys, your worries and moments of happiness. May God bless you through her hands!”

Michelangelo, “The Last Judgment,” 1536-1541

Dare We Admit That Not All Will Be Saved?

“To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him forever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called ‘hell.’” (CCC 1033)