Helping others realize their potential is good business, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis pleaded with a group of
billionaires to take seriously their personal obligation to share their
resources and make a real commitment to doing business in a way that helps
other people realize their potential, too.

The global economic system, he said Dec. 3, needs a
“fundamental renewal” that “does not have to do simply with
market economics, figures to be balanced, the development of raw materials and
improvements made to infrastructure.”

“What we are speaking about is the common good of
humanity, of the right of each person to share in the resources of this world
and to have the same opportunities to realize his or her potential, a potential
that is ultimately based on the dignity of the children of God, created in his
image and likeness,” the pope told CEOs and other leaders taking part in
the Fortune-Time Global Forum.

Business leaders like Virgin’s Richard Branson, LRN’s Dov Seidman, Siemens’ Joe Kaeser and IBM’s Ginni Rometty met in Rome for
two days to respond to what they described as Pope Francis’ “passionate
pleas for broader prosperity and lasting ways to lift the poor.” They also
spoke with concern of growing popular discontent with the way big business and
governments operate.

“Populism and protectionism are rearing their heads
around the world, and trust in business — as well as other institutions — has
plummeted,” the leaders said in their report to the pope.

After public sessions focused on what Branson defined as
“moral leadership” — “leadership that accepts that the
long-term sustainability of our actions is more important than short-term gain”
— the CEOs and heads of major nongovernmental organizations participated in working
groups to develop practical commitments aimed at increasing people’s access to
finance, health care, the internet, energy, food, clean water, education and
job training.

“Our great challenge,” Pope Francis told them,
“is to respond to global levels of injustice by promoting a local and even
personal sense of responsibility so that no one is excluded from participating
in society.”

“The centrality and dignity of the human person,”
especially the poor and refugees, must be the key factor in strategizing
sustainable development, the pope said.

“When we ignore the cries of so many of our brothers
and sisters throughout the world, we not only deny them their God-given rights
and worth, but we also reject their wisdom and prevent them from offering their
talents, traditions and cultures to the world,” he told the CEOs. “In
so doing, the poor and marginalized are made to suffer even more, and we
ourselves grow impoverished, not only materially, but morally and spiritually.”

While the CEOs recognized that globalization and digitization “have
created unprecedented growth and lifted billions of people out of
poverty,” both they and Pope Francis also acknowledged that the growth has
been uneven and “inequality within nations is on the rise.”

“People want to make their voices heard and express
their concerns and fears,” Pope Francis told the leaders. They want to
contribute and “to benefit from the resources and development too often
reserved for the few.”

“While this may create conflict and lay bare the many
sorrows of our world, it also makes us realize that we are living in a moment
of hope. For when we finally recognize the evil in our midst, we can seek
healing by applying the remedy,” the pope said.

“Institutional and personal conversion” is the
only way forward, he said. “Seek ever more creative ways to transform our
institutions and economic structures so that they may be able to respond to the
needs of our day and be in service of the human person, especially those
marginalized and discarded.”

And that cannot be done from the boardroom, he said. “Involve
in your efforts those whom you seek to help; give them a voice, listen to their
stories, learn from their experiences and understand their needs. See in them a
brother and a sister, a son and a daughter, a mother and a father. Amid the
challenges of our day, see the human face of those you earnestly seek to help.”

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