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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pope Francis is convening an international summit of young economists in Assisi to re-examine the current model of capitalism — what he terms the "economy of exclusion" — and to "find answers to the structural problems of the global economy."
Modeled on the example of St. Francis of Assisi, the pontiff wants the conference to work towards creating "a different kind of economy: one that brings life not death, one that is inclusive and not exclusive, humane and not dehumanizing, one that cares for the environment and does not despoil it."
The March 26–28 forum, which has been dubbed a "papal anti-Davos," will bring together 2,000 students, academics and socially conscious entrepreneurs from more than 45 countries to explore alternatives to the free-market capitalist system.
Delegates will work towards correcting "models of growth incapable of guaranteeing respect for the environment, openness to life, concern for the family, social equality, the dignity of workers and the rights of future generations."
Francis is hoping that the "Economy of Francesco" conference, named after the saint of Assisi, will draft a "covenant" to "change today's economy and to give a soul to the economy of tomorrow."
The pontiff, who excoriates capitalism as the "dung of the Devil," expects the covenant to complement Laudato Sí, his 2015 encyclical on "climate change."
"That won the pontiff a strong following among environmentalists. The follow-up is unlikely to do the same for economists," notes The Economist.
"Pope Francis has every right to weigh in on business," but the "difficulty is coming up with an alternative that does not turn into a system of command and control," and "even Italian business-school students hoping to attend the papal get-together admit they have no idea what those ideas mean," the publication points out.
The neo-liberal journal critiques Francis as "erratic when it comes to remedies," and as someone who simultaneously regards business as a "noble vocation" and "equates free markets with tyranny and overlooks the fact that many problems — not least in countries like Italy — are caused by markets not being free enough."
The economic brain behind the conference is Professor Luigino Bruni, who has described the chief goal of taxation as serving "to redistribute income and wealth from the rich to the poor" and has denounced meritocracy as "the ethical legitimization of inequality."
Bruni, who teaches political economy at LUMSA University, a private Roman Catholic college in Rome, has criticized the market for not being able "to ensure a just distribution" of wealth. "In the absence of other principles and institutions, the market tends to augment the inequalities in time," Bruni stated.
Bruni believes that "postmodern man, informed and global, after having achieved political democracy, is now seriously demanding economic democracy" and the market, "while it produces wealth it should also distribute wealth, thereby making it a place of justice."
The author of The Genesis and Ethos of the Market, Civil Happiness: Economics and Human Flourishing in Historical Perspective and The Economy of Salvation: Ethical and Anthropological Foundations of Market Relations in the First Two Books of the Bible, believes "the Bible has many words to offer to our economic life and ideas" and calls for "the transformation of wealth into well-being."
Two Nobel-prizewinning economists, Amartya Sen and Muhammad Yunus, have confirmed they will attend.
However, sources have alerted Church Militant to the possibility of more radical voices subverting the summit to push a left-wing economic agenda.
Mark Tapson, journalism fellow on Popular Culture at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, told Church Militant:
Pope Francis has condemned capitalism as an economic model in which exclusion and inequality are rampant and in which the powerful feed upon the powerless. But he is not serving the millions of poor among his worldwide flock well by preaching the redistribution of wealth. Only capitalism has proven to elevate humanity out of poverty into abundance. Socialism only accomplishes the reverse.
Professor Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia's Center for Sustainable Development and of the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network, is one of the main speakers at the symposium.
Sachs has called President Donald Trump "mentally disordered: megalomaniacal, paranoid and psychopathic" and has spoken in favor of Chinese and Iranian trade policies.
In his 2008 book Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet, Sachs argued for legalizing abortion as a cost-effective way to eliminate "unwanted children" when contraception fails. Abortion, he wrote, is a "lower-risk and lower-cost option" than having unwanted children born into the world.
Stefano Gennarini, director of Legal Studies at the Center for Family and Human Rights, called Sachs one of the "most powerful proponents of abortion and population control in the world."
Francis has also invited Hindu eco-feminist and anti-capitalist Vandana Shiva as a conference speaker. While Shiva has spoken out against sex-selective abortion and population control imposed by Western policymakers on the Third World, she also termed the Vatican and the Catholic Church a "patriarchal institution" and is a strong advocate of abortion.
Swiss economist Bruno Frey, who was found guilty of misconduct for self-plagiarism, has also been invited to speak at the summit.
Another speaker is British economist Kate Raworth, who describes herself as "a renegade economist focused on exploring the economic mindset needed to address the 21st century's social and ecological challenges."
The Holy Father "stands on firmer ground" if he sticks to "preaching about ethics" and "would do well to use the world's most prominent pulpit to exhort businesses to behave with a stronger sense of morality," observes The Economist, warning against the pontiff "proposing half-baked policies that any thinking economist can quickly rubbish."
The summit is being organized by the diocese of Assisi, the municipality of Assisi, the Economy of Communion and the Seraphic Institute — a rehabilitation institution for children and young adults with disabilities.