Solidarity, Cooperation and Responsibility:
the antidotes to fight injustices, inequalities and exclusions
The 2021 International Conference will be held at the delicate post pandemic time and coincide with the 30th anniversary of Centesimus Annus, the end of the year Pope Francis is devoting to Laudato Sì and the new Encyclical All Brothers. From these Encyclicals and from Caritas Veritate, which together represent a fundamental part of the Magisterium, we can draw many fruitful teachings; they reflect the continuity of the Social Doctrine of the Church, capable of renewal while remaining faithful to its inspiring principles. This ability to renew itself while remaining faithful to its founding values is the compass by which we shall be able to work out how to address the devastating impact of Covid-19 and the many other pandemics that afflict our planet: poverty, injustice, inequality, wars.
Thirty years ago St. John Paul II in Centesimus Annus taught us that “Man fulfils himself by using his intelligence and freedom. In so doing he utilizes the things of this world as objects and instruments and makes them his own (CA, 43) but at the same time stated “It is not wrong to want to live better; what is wrong is a style of life which is presumed to be better when it is directed towards "having" rather than "being", and which wants to have more, not in order to be more but in order to spend life in enjoyment as an end in itself.75 It is therefore necessary to create life-styles in which the quest for truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of common growth are the factors which determine consumer choices, savings and investments. …… I am referring to the fact that even the decision to invest in one place rather than another, in one productive sector rather than another, is always a moral and cultural choice. (CA, 36). Pope John Paul II also points out that “Equally worrying is the ecological question which accompanies the problem of consumerism and which is closely connected to it”. “Instead of carrying out his role as a co-operator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature, which is more tyrannized than governed by him” CA, 37). And further on “In this regard, humanity today must be conscious of its duties and obligations towards future generations.” (CA, 37)
Caritas in Veritate and Laudato Sì invite and urge us likewise. In 2015, twenty four years after Centesimus Annus, Pope Francis remarked that man had not changed his lifestyle, consumerism still prevailed, the planet was devastated … and launched a pressing appeal: “The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change.” (LS, 13).
In 2020 the devastating coronavirus pandemic dramatically evidenced that thirty years after Centesimus Annus, twelve years after Caritas in Veritate (June 29, 2009) and five after Laudato Sì nothing had changed; in some way things are even worse.
Now we have to deal with reconstruction. What kind of a world should we be aiming for? Pope Francis urges us not to go back to the old but build a new one through a process of regeneration. A regeneration that must begin from man, responsible behaviors conducive to the common good and guided by solidarity, charity and truth. Development needs truth, without it, Pope Benedict XVI says, “social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power, resulting in social fragmentation” (CV, 5).
The thread linking the three encyclicals is the belief that the crisis of our society is rooted in an anthropological problem: the way man relates with God, with oneself, with the others and with nature. The integral ecology, forcefully advocated by Pope Francis and firmly inserted in the patrimony of the Social Doctrine of the Church, allows us to address this situation by going to the root of our problems and difficulties.
The three encyclicals invite us to reflect on the meaning of our existence, on the use we make of the instruments at our disposal. They emphasize the utter interdependence of the earth’s inhabitants, among themselves and with nature. They show the way towards inclusive economic and political institutions and new educational and cultural models that must be put in place to promote new behaviors and lifestyles, abandoning the individualistic and relativistic paradigm of consumption, waste, short term profit.
On the basis of the teachings of these encyclicals and continuing in the wake of previous International Conferences, in 2021 we will address the perennial problems of injustice, inequality and exclusion in the light of three antidotes at our disposal: solidarity, cooperation and responsibility. Enhancing sustainable, inclusive ang just development towards thrivability it is necessary to change educational models, governance, business models and lifestyle – we have already examined these aspects, during our past International Conference. But these changes cannot be pursued without a convinced and strong rootedness to the principles of solidarity, cooperation and responsibility.
The Popes’ teachings invite us to look for the authentic and transcendental meaning of man’s doings, of work, business and finance, in order to address health, ecological and socio-economic emergencies; He invite us to be fully aware of our personal responsibility, of the need to respect our own and others’ dignity, and to live this responsibility in our daily actions in a spirit of solidarity and cooperation because this is how we can make community life more just.