Responding to Pope Francis’s call for young economists, entrepreneurs, practitioners and changemakers to “give a soul to the economy” and work towards an ecologically responsible economy that cares for all and leaves no one behind, more than a thousand young people from different parts of the world came to Assisi, Italy for the Economy of Francesco 2022 Global Event from 22 to 24 September.
They were days full of meaningful encounters, bridges and harvest. A space to share and listen to the stories, to learn about diverse initiatives and best practices, to connect with young people from other parts of the world, and to be part of a shared global commitment that seeks change.
Young people, including the representative of the IYCW and the network on the Future of Work After Laudato Si project where we belong, shared powerful spoken word pieces, echoing the very essence of the Economy of Francesco: “We are the women and men of listening and dialogue, connecting bridges and seeking to give soul to the economy.” Motivated and empowered by the encounter, the community proceeded to build bridges as ongoing projects were shared and ideas exchanged. Possible collaborative actions were sought to identify ways to transform towards an ecologically and socially responsible economy.
Following the opening day, young people were distributed in the different villages which work concretely on the different topics.
Since 2019 the IYCW has been participating in the Work and Care village. In that village, we took the time to share different stories, testimonies of young workers and the reality on the ground. Then we shared expectations for the Economy of Francesco community. It was encouraging to hear the resolve to find ways for an economy that cares for all. The IYCW put forward the importance of dignified work, social protection for all, gender equality, quality education and the value of solidarity. After the discussion, the Work and Care village constructed its final statement: “We firmly believe that through work we are enabled to participate in God’s creation by fulfilling ourselves within our communities. We ask for a new culture of work that prioritizes people’s dignity, acknowledges the contribution of each worker, generates shared economic value, breaking in-work poverty.”
On the final day, Pope Francis's presence filled the Lyrick Theater with his desire and calls on the young people of the Economy of Francesco to work for social, interactive and spiritual sustainability, and to recognize the cry of the poor and the cry of the planet. Pope Francis opened his speech with these words of encouragement for the young people taking part in the Economy of Francesco, reminding them that they can change the world for the better.
“When a young person sees in another young person the same calling, and this experience is repeated with hundreds, and even thousands of other young people, then great things become possible…”
“You young people, with the help of God, know what to do, you can do it. Young people have done this before in the course of history. Young people are called to become artisans and builders of our common home.”
Pope Francis also highlighted the model of prophecy that was the focus of the Economy of Francesco, and he insisted on the need for a “new vision of the environment and the earth.” Recalling the love of Saint Francis for the poor, Pope Francis insisted that the Economy of Francesco must “respect, love, and care for the poor, for every poor person, for every fragile and vulnerable person.” This, he said, means not only working for the poor, but changing the economy. We need not embrace poverty as Saint Francis did but we must change the economy in order to combat the misery people face.
Finally, Pope Francis concluded his remarks with three signposts for the young people going forward. He invited them to look at the world with the eyes of the poorest of the poor; to remember those who work with their hands and the importance of work; and to “incarnate” their ideas in concrete actions.
“Do not forget about work, do not forget about workers. The work of our hands. Work is already the challenge of our time, and it will be all the more the challenge of tomorrow. Without dignified work and just remuneration, young people will not truly become adults and inequality will increase. It is possible, at times, for a person to survive without work but he or she does not live well. So while you create goods and services, do not forget to create work, good work and work for everyone.”
The event concluded by Pope Francis joined with thousands of young people from around the world to undersign a Covenant. This Covenant marks the culmination of the work of the 3-day event, and fulfills the Pope’s invitation to young economists, entrepreneurs, and changemakers to commit themselves to making a difference in the world. (Click here for the full text of the covenant.)
Leizyl Salem, a representative of the IYCW in the EoF said, “what comes from Assisi is a message of hope. With all this misery happening in the world right now, even if the future of the world looks dreary to us today because of the frightening nuclear threat, the health and financial crisis, I believe that we, young people and young workers, have the power to act and to make a change. We, young Christian workers, are determined to commit ourselves creatively to a new society, to a different and more humane society that has as its center the human being, and not the god of money. We can achieve this change through solidarity, by being organized, with the participation of all and from below, and by transforming our ideas into action.”