21 January 2020, The Tablet

Put ethics before economics, says Pope

Pope Francis: 'The overriding consideration, never to be forgotten, is that we are all members of the one human family.'

Put ethics before economics, says Pope

Pope Francis in St Peter's Square at the Vatican.
Evandro Inetti/Zuma Press/PA Images

Pope Francis has appealed to business and political leaders attending the World Economic Forum in Davos to put ethics before economics.

Speakers at Davos, where the forum this year celebrates its 50th anniversary, include Greta Thunberg who will be calling for companies to stop financing fossil fuels.

In his written message to the forum, the Pope says: "The overriding consideration, never to be forgotten, is that we are all members of the one human family. The moral obligation to care for one another flows from this fact, as does the correlative principle of placing the human person, rather than the mere pursuit of power or profit, at the very centre of public policy.

"This duty, moreover, is incumbent upon business sectors and governments alike, and is indispensable in the search for equitable solutions to the challenges we face. As a result it is necessary to move beyond short-term technological or economic approaches and to give full consideration to the ethical dimension in seeking resolutions to present problems or proposing initiatives for the future.

"All too often materialistic or utilitarian visions, sometimes hidden, sometimes celebrated, lead to practices and structures motivated largely, or even solely, by self-interest. This typically views others as a means to an end and entails a lack of solidarity and charity, which in turn gives rise to real injustice, whereas a truly integral human development can only flourish when all members of the human family are included in, and contribute to, pursuing the common good.

"In seeking genuine progress, let us not forget that to trample upon the dignity of another person is in fact to weaken one’s own worth."

Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, is at Davos as the Holy See’s representative. The theme this year is "stakeholders for a cohesive and sustainable world".

Pope Francis, who also announced today that he is to visit Bari in southern Italy next month, and who has long been engaged with the problems and sufferings facing migrants around the world, says in his message that there is need for a "greater engagement at all levels" in order to address more effectively the diverse issues facing humanity.

"Throughout the past five decades, we have witnessed geopolitical transformations and significant changes, from the economy and labour markets to digital technology and the environment. Many of these developments have benefitted humanity, while others have had adverse effects and created significant development lacunae. While today’s challenges are not the same as those of half a century ago, a number of features remain relevant as we begin a new decade."

His concern is that advances in economics are harnessed for the "development of all our brothers and sisters, including those of future generations". He is also seeking a from the delegates "a growth in solidarity, especially with those most in need, who experience social and economic injustice and whose very existence is even threatened." 

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