Meeting Pope Francis after Our Visit to Najaf

I want to report to you on a very remarkable trip I made with several Caux Round Table colleagues to Najaf, Iraq, two weeks ago.  After our seminar and other meetings in Najaf, we flew to Rome to share our observations with Pope Francis.

Najaf is the historic origin of Shi’a Islam, those Muslims who follow the personal example and the spiritual insights of Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad.  A book containing his sermons and other documents on his life and ministry is the Nahjul Balagha, which you can find here.

For four years now, the Caux Round Table has facilitated the study of covenants made by the Prophet Muhammad to respect and protect Christians.  Our report was released in February 2021.  You may find a copy here.

Our work was much appreciated by Pope Francis, who wrote me that he “trusts that such covenants will serve as a model for the further enhancement of mutual respect, understanding and fraternal coexistence between Christians and Muslims at the present time.”

At the invitation of Kufa University in Najaf, Lord Daniel Brennan, our chairman emeritus, our fellow, John Dalla Costa, Raed Charafeddine, Antoine Frem, Ahmed El Wakil and myself, flew to Najaf to participate in a seminar at the university on the covenants of the Prophet and the covenantal arrangements he made with different communities to provide for the governance of all citizens of the city of Medina.

I include here some of my notes from the seminar and our other meetings recording contributions from our Muslim colleagues:

-Religious faith does not prevent one from becoming a citizen in the Islamic civil state – see the constitutional arrangement of Medina.

-Civil organizations are separate from obligations arising under Islamic law.

-Need today to plant seeds of civic state and society as a commons – create a humanistic social state for modern times.

-Balance unity and divergence – everything in its right place.

-Divergence – tribal and religious – under justice; protect divergence at every level.

-Citizenship protects divergence – citizenship is the outcome of unity.

-Seek peaceful social coexistence – stop dogmatic, ideological conflicts.

-The duty of the state is to foster the principle of social coexistence; the state should be safe for all people of goodwill and good behavior.

-In military conquest, there is a different dynamic – there is no commitment to community, only to conformity and obedience.

-Reproduce in new forms for today the original principles; return to pure sources of spiritual aspirations.

-In piety, there is no distinction between Arab and non-Arab – as with a comb when all teeth are the same length.

-Look for the values and virtues common to humanity; the cornerstones shared by all human societies.

-The hearts of the scholars are full of light.

-Imam Ali – the ideas of social peace and coexistence – model of living together based on principles, not for Muslims only.

-Qur’an has principles for social peace within a state.

-Christians have the Bible, Jews the Torah, Muslims the Qur’an – all make use of rules and religious faith.

-We are brothers in religion and brothers in humanity.

-Islamic rulers should apply the law without distinction – this follows the principle of social justice.

-Justice and equality encouraged by Islam in political, social and economic realms.

-Equally value human persons.

-With rights, differences in ideas do not create differences in rights enjoyed.

-To be a citizen is to have agency – a share of wealth; the poor have rights, determined by needs and abilities of individuals, not by social or political status.

-3 Qur’anic principles:

-Neither be unfair, nor be unfairly treated.

-Forgiveness, justice, charity.

-Goodness, purity of heart.

-These principles were common for all the prophets.

-Christians are respected in Qur’an, which recognizes Jesus and values his ministry highly.  This is a solid foundation for mutual cooperation.

I think these summary quotations provide you with a correct impression of the quality and nature of our conversations.

John Dalla Costa and myself each presented a paper comparing the covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the recent encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, of Pope Francis.  Each of us found substantial and meaningful similarities between the two texts on respect for others.

Meeting with an ayatollah


The seminar was convened by the university to reciprocate Pope Francis’s visit to Najaf and his meeting with the Grand Ayatollah Sistani in March 2021.

We were also invited to share our thoughts with three schools affiliated with the hawzah or seminary in Najaf.  We listened and learned as our hosts spoke of the Shi’a social teachings, which we found consistent with many Catholic Social Teachings and the Caux Round Table ethical principles for moral capitalism and moral government.

Meeting at the Imam Al-Khoei Benevolent Foundation


Both clerical and lay intellectuals spoke of their interest in continued exchanges of scholars and joint undertakings in scholarship, both of Muslim and Christian texts.

I came to appreciate the historic importance of Najaf in our visit to Babylon.  Standing where Hammurabi proclaimed his code of laws and walking where Nebuchadnezzar might have walked through the Ishtar Gate and hearing our guide speak of Adam and Noah being buried nearby gave me an awareness of centuries and wonder at the emergence of what has shaped my civilization in so many ways.  We are but fleeting moments in the course of human history.  We are not masters whose writs count for much, but each of us, in our own time and in our own way, can make a difference, whether for better or for worse.  Depending on what?  Our individual moral sense?  God’s will?  Fate and circumstances beyond our control?

The Ishtar Gate (a reproduction, as the original bricks are now in the Berlin Museum)


We visited the tomb of Ali, assassinated by one unable to appreciate his efforts to preserve and pass on the special spirituality of the Prophet Muhammad.  We stood in the Kufa Mosque at the spot of his assassination.  We stood by respectfully, as worshippers gave of themselves intensely in prayer and devotion.

Kufa Mosque


In our meeting with Pope Francis, after flying from Najaf to Rome via Doha, we presented the Pontiff with a copy of the new book on the covenants of the Prophet Muhammad, written by our colleagues, Professors Ibrahim Zein and Ahmed El-Wakil of Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Qatar.

You can find their book here.

Pope Francis, at his desk


Our meeting with the Pope had been arranged by Cardinal Silvano Tomasi, an advisor on our initiative to learn more about the covenants of the Prophet Muhammad and one of our new fellows.

Lord Brennan conveyed in Spanish our observation that the Pope’s visit to Najaf of two years ago had been historic in opening the doors to mutual respect and common spiritual aspirations for social-coexistence, consistent with the thinking of Imam Ali himself so long ago.  Lord Brennan related that everyone we met, from senior ayatollahs to our van drivers, called the Pope “Baba Francis” – Papa Francis – with obvious respect, warmth and enthusiasm.

Pope Francis responded quickly and firmly that he had known as a certainty that he had to make that trip and not be deterred by worries or uncertainties of result; that it had been important to our common destiny for him to act with resolute friendship in reaching out to the Shi’a leadership.

We pointed out the similarities between the social teachings of Imam Ali then and Shi’a ayatollahs today and the Pope’s encyclicals.  And we submitted to the Pope suggestions for further engagements and exchanges with Kufa University and colleges associated with the seminary.

The Pope seemed pleased with our report, which to all intents and purposes, had validated his decision to make that historic visit to meet the Grand Ayatollah Sistani.

We left the meeting grateful for the opportunity to have contributed to the evolution of an historic rapprochement between two of the Abrahamic faiths.

Could the CEO of Best Buy Start That Company Today?

Our chairman, Brad Anderson, formerly CEO of Best Buy, recently sat down with Marissa Streit, CEO of Prager University, to discuss whether he could start Best Buy today and if so, how he would approach it.

He also discusses his meeting with Steve Jobs and what he learned.

You can watch it above or  here.

It’s a little over 40 minutes in length.

March Pegasus Now Available!

Here’s the March issue of Pegasus.

In this edition, we include 2 articles presenting Adam Smith and Karl Marx as storytellers.  What are their storylines?  What do they seek to teach us through story?

I would be most interested in your thoughts and feedback.

Also, we’re having a round table discussion over Zoom on this very topic at 9:00 am (CDT) on Tuesday, March 28th, and you would be welcome to join us.

The event is free and will last about an hour.

To register, please

More Short Videos on Relevant and Timely Topics

We recently posted more short videos on relevant and timely topics.  They include:

Technology In, Technology Out

There’s No Capitalism Without Customers

Understanding Balance

Getting Out of The Way of Technology

A Message from 1929

All our videos can be found on our YouTube page here.  We recently put them into 9 playlists, which you can find here.

If you aren’t following us on Twitter or haven’t liked us on Facebook, please do so.  We update both platforms frequently.

Three New Fellows Appointed

It is my honor to announce the appointments of Cardinal Silvano M. Tomasi, Kasit Piromya and Professor Jake Hoskins as new fellows of the Caux Round Table.

Cardinal Tomasi has kindly provided leadership and guidance to our group seeking to learn more about the covenants given by the Prophet Muhammad to respect and protect Christians.

Cardinal Tomasi has served as the Pope’s special delegate to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta since November 2020.  He was the permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva from 2003 to 2016.  He previously worked in the Roman Curia, became an archbishop in 1996 and represented the Holy See as an apostolic nuncio in Africa from 1996 to 2003.

Pope Francis raised him to the rank of cardinal on November 28, 2020.

Cardinal Tomasi was ordained as priest of the Congregation of the Missionaries of St. Charles (Scalabrini).  He earned his Ph.D. in sociology from Fordham University.  From 1970 to 1974, he was assistant professor of sociology at the City University of New York and the New School for Social Research.  He co-founded the Center for Migration Studies, a think tank based in New York and he founded and edited the journal, International Migration Review.  From 1983 to 1987, he was director of the newly created Office for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In particular, Cardinal Tomasi will advise me on morality and economics.

Kasit Piromya was educated at St. Joseph’s College, Darjeeling India.  He then received a BS in international affairs from the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, a Masters of Social Science from the Institute of Social Studies, the Hague, The Netherlands and a diploma from the National Defense College of Thailand.  A career diplomat of 37 years, he held several senior posts at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kingdom of Thailand, including Thai ambassador to Moscow, Jakarta, Bonn/Berlin, Tokyo and Washington, D.C.

After retirement from the civil service in 2005, he joined politics.  He became a member of the Democrat Party of Thailand and became foreign minister (December 2008 – August 2011), a member of the House of Representatives and a member of the National Reform Steering Assembly.  He is a member of several regional non-governmental organizations, such as APHR (democracies and human rights), APLN (non-proliferation and disarmament), SEAC Group (alternative democratic ASEAN) and TBC (border refugees).  He holds honorary positions at Chulalongkorn University and Thammasat University.

In particular, Kasit will advise me on Asian approaches to responsible business and government, especially from a Theravada point of view.

Jake Hoskins is the Guy F. Atkinson Assistant Professor of Data Science & Marketing at the Atkinson School of Business, Willamette University in Oregon.  He teaches marketing principles, data engineering, data analysis and marketing analysis.

He previously taught at Westminster College and Millsaps College.

His recent publications include:

“Market selection and product positioning decisions – implications for short- and long-term performance: Evidence from the U.S. music industry,” Journal of Product & Brand Management; “The electronic word of mouth (eWOM): implications of mainstream channel distribution and sales by niche brands,” Journal of Interactive Marketing; “Growing the community bank in the shadow of national banks: An empirical analysis of the U.S. banking industry, 1994-2018,” Journal of Product & Brand Management; and “Industry conditions, market share and the firm’s ability to derive business-line profitability from diverse technological portfolios,” Journal of Business Research.

In particular, Jake will coordinate the new collaboration between the Caux Round Table and the Atkinson School of Business.

I’m delighted to welcome them to our community of fellows and look forward to their contributions to our development of cutting edge thinking about both the theory and the implementation of moral capitalism and moral government at this time of irresolution in so many institutions, both national and global.

Is Karl Marx Still Relevant in These Days of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Seeking to Repeal “Racial” Capitalism? – Tuesday, March 28

For nearly 170 years, the thought of Karl Marx has justified fierce opposition to capitalism.  But, in retrospect, was his critique at all in alignment with reality?  Should it matter to us anymore?

The March issue of Pegasus, coming your way, suggests a new take on Karl Marx and Adam Smith.  Consider them as storytellers, not as scientists.  What are their storylines?  What do they seek to teach us through story?

Please join us for a round table discussion over Zoom on Karl Marx and how to critique capitalism at 9:00 am (CST) on Tuesday, March 28.

Now, last year, we sent out a special issue of Pegasus wherein I contended that Marx did not at all understand capitalism and the universal human process of wealth creation.  Rather, I suggested, he only saw rent extraction as the basic human approach to the acquisition of economic assets.  Thus, he came up with a theory of capitalism as nothing more than rent- seeking.  You can find my essay here.

To register, please email

The event is free and will last about an hour.

Ukraine One Year Later

It has been one year since Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian army to invade Ukraine.

What should we have learned from this illegal aggression?

From the Caux Round Table perspectives of moral capitalism and moral government, let me suggest 4 major lessons:

1. Napoleon and Clausewitz were correct: the moral is to the physical, as 3 is to 1.  Ukrainian moral strength defeated Russian military capability.  Clausewitz wrote that the moral forces “form the spirit, which permeates the whole being of war.  These forces fasten themselves soonest and with the greatest affinity on to the will, which puts in motion and guides the whole mass of powers, uniting with it as were in one stream because this is a moral force itself.”

2. Max Weber was correct and Karl Marx was wrong.  Values drive human actions, not dialectical materialism.  Weber grounded capitalism as a new form of human thriving in the beliefs making up the Protestant ethic.  Putin’s war is about values, not economic interest.  In his article of 2021 on the history of Ukraine, he, in your face, asserts the moral rights of the Rus people to that territory.  His speeches since the start of the war have reiterated that point.  The patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church has blessed the war and so turned it for believing Russians into a religious one.

3. The European Enlightenment is comatose and at death’s door.  Enlightenment values were powerful enough in 1939 to mobilize nations against the volksgemeinschaft national socialist regimes in Germany, Italy and Japan.  Now, they are being tested again by Putin, with help from China and other states inclined to forms of national socialism.  The case against Enlightenment values was made in public by Putin and Xi Jinping in their bilateral agreement of February 4, 2022.

States now are looking inwardly for values, not to universals and globalized visions of the common good.  In the U.S., the emerging un-enlightened values are from the left and privilege 1) group identities (including racist ones) over individualism and 2) the right of an elite to indoctrinate the un-woke hoi polloi, who do most of society’s work and raise most of society’s children.

4. Terms for an acceptable peace can be deduced from the Caux Round Table Principles for Government.  If all government is a public trust, then both Russia and Ukraine have trust responsibilities to avoid destruction and killing.  Any dispute over the sovereignty of a territory – in this case, the Donbas and Crimea – can be resolved by giving sovereignty to a neutral party.  The best example in recent history was the creation of a United Nations interim trusteeship administration over Cambodia.  This arrangement allowed both China and Vietnam to back down from their claims to control Cambodia through their client Cambodian factions.  The United Nations still has a trusteeship council, which could be activated to assume interim administration of the territories in dispute so that Ukraine could accept a cease fire and not lose its claim to sovereignty and Russian could similarly accept a cease fire without surrendering its claim to sovereignty over the same territory.  Resolution of the competing claims to sovereignty could be sought without resort to war.

Brandl Program Video Recording and Proceedings

Each year, an eclectic group of local think tanks and individuals come together to honor the life and career of John Brandl, former dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and former state legislator, for his uncommon quest for common ground.

This year’s program was held on February 2 at the Humphrey School on the topic of what should be done with Minnesota’s historic budget surplus.

A video recording of the event can be found here and the proceedings here.

Request for Support

Why should you give financial support to the Caux Round Table for Moral Capitalism?

One, it is unique in the world for finding and documenting fundamental moral realities which, across cultures, guide us towards a moral capitalism and moral government.

Two, at this time in history, anomie, narcissism (including racialism), atrophy of leadership, lassitude among bureaucrats, uncertainty and aversion to accepting personal responsibility are everywhere dangers to our civilization.  They must be addressed and put behind us.  How can that be done?  Who is up to the task?

The poet, William Butler Yeats, wrote in a similar time of uncertainty:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.

A recent article in First Things made this claim about our times:

Something has gone wrong in modern cultural and political life.  Only those hopelessly numb … can observe the state of things and not see serious problems on the horizon.  The great and the good have become the mediocre and the lame.  The conditions necessary for civic and personal virtue have steadily eroded.  Even if a cataclysm never comes, a civilization contenting itself to die on history’s hospice bed is crisis enough.

Only gaining resilient convictions about what is real and therefore, acceptably true, can reverse this cultural decline.

Which brings to mind the question of whether or not Confucius gave good advice when he said that the first step in providing good governance is to find and use correct words, words that resonate with reality.  This became the Chinese doctrine of “rectifying names” or perfecting thought forms.  Today, academics might associate this practice with creating a discourse regime, seeking to establish social and cultural cohesion.

The connection between thought forms – words – and the quality of our lives was put by Confucius this way: “If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things; If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.  When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music will not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded.  When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot.”

Several years ago in the U.S., the Caux Round Table called out “wokeness” as an ideology inconsistent with moral capitalism.  We took a leadership position, insisting on a correct understanding of the thought form “woke.”  Later, the Caux Round Table drew attention to the inequities imposed on individuals by the procrustean program of allocating career advancement using the invidious criteria for preferential treatment proposed by diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) taskmasters.

In both cases, the Caux Round Table took leadership positions defending high standards of moral integrity.

Michel Foucault named ideological conventions like “woke” and “DEI” as “surveillance discourse.”  Such authoritarian use of language often seeks to prevent the expression of respectful humanisms.

What Really is ESG?

In providing leadership for the environment, social and governance (ESG) movement, which seeks to incentivize private firms to provide public goods, the Caux Round Table has focused on the “S” and the “G” by calling for new understandings of “capital” itself.  The Caux Round Table proposed that the “capital,” which generates wealth, enhances cultural prosperity and solidifies community well-being across generations includes more than money and traditional balance sheet assets.

Once balance sheets are revised and valuation analysis is modernized, moral capitalism can be easily practiced and financed.

For nearly 4 decades now, the Caux Round Table has sought the truth, which is revealed by the study of reality and to seek such truth in dialogue among wisdom traditions.  This collective and mutually respectful effort has brought forth very helpful learning about the moral good by using words of different languages designed to articulate nuanced insights into our common human moral sensibility.

We need your financial help in putting on the internet for global distribution educational modules on moral capitalism and moral government.  We are calling this project renaissance, a rebirth of moral courage and clarity in moral thinking after the study of humanity’s moral heritage and each individual’s moral sense.

That you may evaluate the importance of our thought leadership, I attach a copy of our 2022 year in review (annual report).

But let me highlight some of our more important and unique accomplishments:


During 2022, we endeavored to provide in our monthly newsletter, Pegasus, cutting edge comments and ideas responding to the challenges of our time, in line with Confucius’ injunction to get the words right so that all people can flourish on their own, having opportunities, rights and responsibilities.

Articles seeking to provide access to sound understandings were:

-The Art and Architecture of Moral Capitalism, by Michael Hartoonian
-The Charmed Structure of Friendship, by Michael Hartoonian
-Designing Friendships, by Michael Hartoonian
-Surviving Speed and Complexity, by Michael W. Wright
-Recentering Moral Capitalism, by Stephen B. Young
-The Moral Capitalist: Dimensions, Attributes and Assessments, by Michael Hartoonian
-What Are Governments for Anyway?, by Stephen B. Young
-Moral Capitalism and the Middle Class, by Michael Hartoonian
-The Re-emergence of Theocracy in Modern China, by Stephen B. Young
-No Trust, No Future, by Michael W. Wright
-The 100th Anniversary of Mussolini’s March on Rome: Il Duce’s Long Shadow, by Stephen B. Young
-The Mindset of the Moral Capitalist, by Michael Hartoonian
-Mindsets, by Stephen B. Young
-The Design of Ethical Behavior and Moral Institutions, by Michael Hartoonian
-A New Code of Ethics for Journalism, by Stephen B. Young

Caux Round Table Fellows

We relied upon our Fellows, participating in Zoom round tables, to provide their guidance as to the critical and fundamental challenges facing our global community and our systems of wealth creation and governance.

Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad to Respect and Protect Christians

We continued to promote awareness of the example given by the Prophet Muhammad in his covenants to respect and protect Christian communities.

As Pope Francis wrote me, he “trusts that such covenants will serve as a model for the further enhancement of mutual respect, understanding and fraternal coexistence between Christians and Muslims at the present time.”

Framing a New Global Ethic

In late 2022, with his invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin challenged the legitimacy of the post-World War II liberal democratic international order.  The Caux Round Table responded with an initiative in Thailand to begin incorporation of Asian wisdom traditions on moderation, equilibrium and checks and balances in a new foundational global ethic.

I think that our distinctive contributions well deserve your generous support.

To donate, please click here.

If you would rather mail a check, our address is 75 West Fifth Street, Suite 219, St. Paul, MN 55102.

You can also contribute via wire transfer.  For instructions, please respond to this email.

Thank you in advance for your support and continued interest in our work.