Vatican Announces Details of ‘Economy of Francesco’ Conference

Luigino Bruni, the event's scientific director, said this event represents the ‘largest movement of young economists and entrepreneurs in the world.’

Economy of Francesco promotional image.
Economy of Francesco promotional image. (photo: Courtesy photo / Economy of Francesco)

VATICAN CITY — The Economy of Francesco, an international event next month aimed at making finance inclusive and sustainable, has become a “real movement” of young people “committed to a new economy,” professor Luigino Bruni, the event’s scientific director, has said.

Addressing a Vatican press conference on Tuesday, Bruni explained that the COVID emergency has unexpectedly made the “Economy of Francesco” — to take place online Nov. 19-21 — a movement that has “spread throughout the world.” 

First announced by Pope Francis in May 2019 and originally scheduled to happen in Assisi in March, Bruni said the extra time of preparation has led not only to next month’s event but to almost 1,000 young people working actively over the past nine months on 12 “thematic villages” which include “work and care,” “finance and humanity,” “agriculture and justice,” and “energy and poverty.”   

The birth of this movement, Bruni continued, is the “first great and important result of the Economy of Francis” and represents the “largest movement of young economists and entrepreneurs in the world.” The young people, he said, are “committed to a new economy” for today, times in which “the obsolescence of the economy of the 20th century is showing, but also of the economy before January 2020. 

“We have entered the era of communal wealth and a new economy is needed,” said Bruni, who teaches political economy at the Libera University Maria Santissima Assunta in Rome. 

Pope Francis has promised to present a video message for the event. 

According to the organizers, the Economy of Francis officially aims to propose ideas that “move and live for a fairer, more fraternal and sustainable economy and give a soul to the economy of tomorrow.” More than 3,000 young people under the age of 35 and from 120 countries are expected to take part in the event, which will take place entirely online. 

The program includes talks on artificial intelligence and “generativity, relational goods and civil economy.” Other talks will cover “a new education for a new economy,” “peace economics and industrial reconversion: a recovery plan for the world,” and “the energy transition and its social cost.” 

A key figure behind the event is the U.S. economist Jeffrey Sachs, a population control advocate and ardent critic of President Donald Trump, who will speak on the theme of “perfecting joy: two proposals to let life flourish.” 

In a video published last year, Sachs said the Economy of Francesco would be an “amazing, amazing event” that aims to create an economy that is “fair, prosperous, and environmentally sustainable.” 

One of the leading architects of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, which includes targets for “reproductive health” worldwide (a euphemism for “safe” abortion and contraception), Sachs believes next month’s event will be “world changing” and “so productive for the coming generations.”

Bruni said the focus of the Economy of Francesco will not just be the “green economy” but also “the inclusion of the poor, putting the young at the center, the cultivation of the inner life.” He added that the “cry of the earth and the cry of the poor are the same cry, as [Pope Francis’ encyclicals] Laudato Si and now Fratelli Tutti remind us. A fraternity with the earth that does not include fraternity with the least is not complete.”

Bruni explained that the Economy of Francesco is also about constructing a “global spiritual capital that the economy sorely needs.” 

“Yesterday’s economy,” he said, “was all external, all focused on external goods, and so it neglected too many invisible goods, such as relational goods and moral goods. Spiritual capital is the first asset that is missing in business, whose effects we have seen and continue to see.” 

Bruni also underlined the importance of one’s neighbor that was a key part of Fratelli Tutti which he said is also a theme “very dear” to Nobel Prize winner Armatya Sen, the Indian atheist economist, whose work is “one of the inspirers of our event.” 

“There is a continuity between the event wanted by Pope Francis who in May 2019 wrote to young economists and entrepreneurs of the world convening then in Assisi, a symbolic place and heart of the movement, and the encyclical on fraternity,” Bruni said, adding it is a “continuity that encourages us to continue along the path we have undertaken.” 

Salesian Sister Alessandra Smerilli, a member of the event’s scientific committee, said the Economy of Francesco means “above all youth, hope and concreteness” that is inviting young people “not to spread a message but asking them to build it.” 

“We know that in these times of uncertainty, Pope Francis invites us to look beyond, to prepare for the future, and to do so in a concrete way, with our eyes always turned to those who are most in difficulty,” Sister Smerilli said. 

She also explained that about 300 Economy of Francesco online seminars have already taken place on such themes as “moving towards a post-Covid better world.” 

Sister Allesandra, professor of political economy at the Pontifical Faculty of Education Auxilium, said a common theme among all the “villages” has been the “re-evaluation of care within society and the economy,” which she said is “key to shaping the future, together with the need for a more feminine outlook and greater participation of women” to help produce “a more inclusive economy and finance.” 

Franciscan Father Enzo Fortunato of the Sacred Convent of Assisi and spokesman for the event said the “pandemic is laying bare the current economic system” and that we are faced with a “system called to regenerate itself” along a path shown by St. Francis and his followers, and the Pope today. 

He recalled how the words of St. Francis led his brother friars to found “Monti Frumentari,” the first organization to provide private loans of a limited amount in the 15th century, essentially becoming the world’s first lenders of consumer credit. The starting point for a new economy, he said, is one that accepts the “demanding challenge of inclusiveness and renouncing the poison of discarding” without renouncing growth and development.

Florencia Locascio, a staff member of the Economy of Francesco, told the press conference via video link from Argentina that due to the large number of participants they will be joining the event online through “territorial hubs” and that young people from all continents will be taking part in an “Around the Clock, Around the World Marathon” on Nov. 20 beginning at 6pm Assisi time and ending at 130 pm the following day. Each country taking part “will have a slot to show videos, activities and experiences or research data particularly relevant to its territory.” 

Quoting one of more than 100 Argentinian participants, Locascio said “We recognize our differences, but at the same time we know that we need the gifts and talents of each one of us to build a person-centered economy.”