Last Friday and Saturday, I attended the annual conference at the Vatican of the Fondazione Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice, of which I am a member and I also serve on its Advisory Council with our Chairman emeritus Lord Daniel Brennan. The Fondazione was established by Saint John Paul II as a lay organization reporting to the Pope for the advocacy of Catholic Social Teachings in business and finance. Our topic for consideration was the encyclical Laudato Si’ of Pope Francis.
In speaking to us on Saturday morning, Pope Francis importantly said:
“At the same time, however, a number of challenges and issues still remain. For example, progress on the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals has in some cases been slow and even non-existent, or, sadly, has regressed. Improper use of natural resources and models of development that are not inclusive and sustainable continue to have negative effects on poverty, social growth and social equality (cf. Laudato Si’, 43, 48). Laudato Si’ is not a “green” encyclical: it is a social encyclical. Don’t forget this. Moreover, the common good is placed in jeopardy by attitudes of unbridled individualism, consumption and wastefulness. All this makes it difficult to promote economic, environmental and social solidarity and sustainability within a more humane economy which considers not only the satisfaction of immediate desires but also the welfare of future generations. Faced with the enormity of such challenges, it would be easy to lose heart, giving in to uncertainty and anxiety. Yet, human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start” (ibid., 205).
On a personal note, when teaching in Bangkok these past several years, I have been working with Ven. Anil Sakya, a descendant of Ananda, the cousin and first disciple of the Buddha. Ven. Anil has proposed understandings of the Buddha’s first sermon which consider the Dharma as a guide to sustainability in our modern terms of living wisely. Ven. Anil and I are editing a book of essays on this convergence of moral thought.
I thought it helpful to have him invited to this year’s annual meeting of the Fondazione to exchange views with experts on similar understandings coming from Catholic Social Teachings.
I was, accordingly, very pleased that he was invited. Here is a picture of Ven. Anil meeting Pope Francis:
Would that mutuality and reciprocity among all faiths, wisdom traditions and political philosophies were so congenial.