29 June 2015, The Tablet

Richest must listen to poor Pope tells capitalism conference

Pope Francis urged top business and finance leaders meeting in London to address the “scandal of global inequality” and bring economic development and benefit to all people.

In a message to Friday’s second Inclusive Capitalism Conference he said he prayed that participants would recognise their efforts as a service to global society, especially to the poor who are most often excluded from the benefits of economic growth and investment.” The message, read out by Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols, called for fruitful dialogue with local communities, “by listening and responding to their needs and aspirations”.

Other speakers at the event included Bank of England governor Mark Carney, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and former US President Bill Clinton. HRH the Prince of Wales delivered a message via video.

The cardinal quoted from the Pope’s new encyclical letter, Laudato si’, in which Francis noted that the needs of excluded feature as little more than an afterthought in international political and economic discussions. This happens, Francis wrote, because many professionals and opinion makers are far removed from the poor, which “can lead to a numbing of conscience and to tendentious analyses which neglect parts of reality."

The cardinal, who in 2012 launched the Blueprint for Better Business to help firms to be more values-led, went on: “Do we have the depth of desire for change? Do we have it in our hearts to do the right thing?”

He said he hoped the day’s discussions required attentiveness “not only to all involved in your enterprises but also to the widespread cry of the poor and destitute which echoes throughout our world today”.

Archbishop Welby, who before ordination was treasurer of an oil exploration company, told the audience: “What worries me about talking about inclusive capitalism is that our ambition is not sufficiently vaulting, sufficiently broad ranging, sufficiently great.”

Mr Carney, a Catholic, said that many people who work in finance are still unaware of the ethical standards expected of them. Speaking in conversation with The Economist’s Editor-in-Chief Zanny Minton-Beddoes, he said: "A lot of people in these markets didn't really know – and probably still do not know – what is expected of them because it hasn't been adequately defined in everyday language.”

He explained: "There are Aristotelian ethics up here, and very black-letter regulation down here, and you can go round that in some cases but still be offside."

Mr Clinton in the closing speech, which earned him a standing ovation, called for “inclusive politics” as well as inclusive economics, and said that reducing poverty through development projects – he cited an agricultural initiative by the Clinton Foundation in Malawi – could lessen the resentment that attracted people in poor countries to extremism.

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