The Economy of Francesco

“A new economy inspired by Francis of Assisi can and must become an economy of friendship with the earth and an economy of peace. It is a question of transforming an economy that kills into an economy of life, in all its aspects.”

That’s Pope Francis addressing the global gathering of young people and economists last year in Assisi, part of the ongoing Economy of Francesco initiative.

The programme began in 2019 with a letter from the pope, addressed to young economists and entrepreneurs. Pope Francis referenced his Laudato Si, which called for a holistic approach to the environmental crisis that included care for the poor and marginalised. While his encyclical has been broadly admired as an intervention on climate change, it has received less attention for its economic ideas – perhaps predictably!

As anyone working in the field of new economics will know, most people will agree that we need to address climate change and the biodiversity crisis, and some agree that will need to address inequality. Start talking about system change, or more fundamental reforms to capitalism, and support quietly erodes – especially if one questions the biggest driver of environmental decline: economic growth.

Pope Francis does. “We need to correct models of growth incapable of guaranteeing respect for the environment, openness to life, concern for the family, social equality, the dignity of workers and the rights of future generations,” he wrote in his letter. “Sadly, few have heard the appeal to acknowledge the gravity of the problems and, even more, to set in place a new economic model, the fruit of a culture of communion based on fraternity and equality.”

The world of economics and politics may be unwilling to have that conversation, but 3,000 young people from 120 countries responded to his invitation and applied to attend.

The COVID pandemic scuppered that initial plan for a conference in Assisi, and it was moved online in 2020 and 2021, before finally convening in person last year. By then the programme had expanded to include discussion groups, online courses, educational materials, fellowship programmes and a summer school, all supporting fresh approaches to economics. Some of these are open access, such as the online course on Franciscan thought in economics that begins in May.

So far, the ideas and policies developed as part of Economy of Francesco overlap considerably with Joy in Enough’s vision of a greener, fairer economy. Those ideas include commons approaches to global resources (including the atmosphere), the abolition of tax havens, a commitment to more cooperative politics, and approaches to climate action that put the poorest first. Following three years of discussion, participants signed a ‘pact for the economy‘ that is a useful summary of their vision, and one that I might return to in more detail another time.

Altogether, Pope Francis hopes these discussions will initiate “a process of global change so that today’s and tomorrow’s economy is fairer, inclusive and sustainable, without leaving anyone behind.”

See for more, or catch up with videos of previous talks and sessions on Youtube.

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