“We have invited Nobel Prize winners, experts and world personalities to be the event’s endorsers, but young people are the target.” Professor Luigino Bruni immediately focuses on the true protagonists of “The Economy of Francesco”. From 26 to 28 March 2020 the city of Assisi will be the venue of a three-day event entirely dedicated to young economists and entrepreneurs from all over the world. Workshops, artistic displays, seminars and plenary sessions. The invitation to participate – and this is a great novelty – comes directly from Pope Francis with a Letter of convocation released a few days ago. The proposal is “to enter into a covenant” with young people “to change today’s economy and to give a soul to the economy of tomorrow.” So it may be “more just, inclusive and sustainable, leaving nobody behind.” The event is organized by a committee comprising the diocese of Assisi, the Municipality of Assisi, the Seraphic Institute of Assisi and Economia di Comunione. Economy expert Luigino Bruni, Professor of political Economics at LUMSA, is the scientific director of the Committee. “This initiative brings together two priorities of the Pontificate of Francis: young people and the economy,” he said.
“Instead of only involving the heads of State and businessmen who are inconvertible, the Pope proposes a covenant to young people and says: will you work with me to change the economy?”.
At least 500 young people from all over the world will take part in the meeting. They are postgraduate students in economics and young entrepreneurs. “The idea is for them to meet and work together on a regular basis to initiate a world movement of young economists in the Spirit of Francis, which refers to Bergoglio but also to Francis of Assisi.”
Assisi and the economy: it seems a paradoxical combination given that St. Francis made the choice of extreme poverty that today, in the face of current paradigms, is presented as an anti-economy choice par excellence. Why this decision?
Because St. Francis of Assisi was at the centre of yet another economy. The Franciscans were the first economists in Europe. They wrote the first treatises on economics in the 13th and 14th centuries. The Franciscans then led to the creation of the first modern banks, the Monti di Pietà, in the mid-15th century. They conceived their choice of poverty as an economy of giving and sharing. Therefore it cannot be said that Franciscans represent a “non-economy”. Rather, they represent an alternative way of understanding the economy where the poor are the leading players, where wealth is shared and above all where the economy is connected with the environment, for Assisi is also the Canticle of the Creatures.
Why young people?
Today we have Greta’s movement that has brought together teenagers from all over the world who share global concerns on major environmental issues, and we also have the policy of the world leaders who hold the reins of global economy. But an intermediate link is missing: young people in the 25 -35 age bracket, who are entering the world of economics with the prospect of becoming its protagonists, but who are completely cut off from fundamental debates. On the contrary, they are the bridge connecting Greta and political leaders, and the Pope turns to them with an interesting proposal: do all of you who are studying, who are already working in this sector, want to contribute to change this economy? Francis’ idea is that young people are not the future but the present.
As a scholar, do you really believe there is scope for change in the current economic system?
There is a great potential for change. And young people are already part of that change. If we had planned a meeting in Assisi with the greatest economy leaders we would have taken a nice picture but the world would not have changed. These people are incontrovertible.
The novelty here is that the Pope holds an Assisi meeting with young economists that has enormous symbolic value. The message is: “You can change the world.”
What is the alternative? If the economy does not change towards which future are we heading?
The future is what we are already seeing today. A future of growing inequalities that generate various forms of dissatisfaction, ranging from the Yellow Vests to terrorism to an unsustainable planet. That is the picture and it is already before us. The underlying message that is being spread by Greta, whom we will invite, is very simple:
We are not talking about the future, these problems have already taken shape, we must wait no longer.
And young people are part and parcel of the changing process. They have to start today and not wait until tomorrow. If we team up and create a movement capable of attracting people, of entering universities and businesses, these young people will become a driving force.
If the economy is targeting young people, it means that it has seen potential in them. What is their strength?
These youths are showing us that they have developed a thought. There is a thought of young people, especially on environmental and economic issues, which is much more advanced than the thought of adults. What was missing in the 20th century was not the love for young people but the respect for and attention to their thought. They have a way of seeing things that is different from ours and this thought must be taken very seriously. Thus a new era has begun because the thought of the young has entered the public space. Like something new, unprecedented.
Just as the 20th century was the century of women the 21st century is prone to be the century of young people who enter the world with their perspective and make themselves heard.