500 “Prophetic Economy” participants from 40 countries and all five continents were gathered from November 2 to 4 at the International Mariapolis Center, in CastelGandolfo, near Rome, Italy.

The event facilitated interactive and intergenerational exchange through a program of inspiring contributions, work groups and creative workshops.

Although it started as an international platform of encounter, exchange and encouragement, the event went far beyond the limits of mere networking, to become a driving force of energy and commitment for initiatives and actions at local, regional and international levels.

Internationally-renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs, a key speaker at the event, affirmed, “Prophetic economy means an economy that operates according to the vision of the prophets, of justice, and of peace, a vision of meeting the needs of the poorest people, a vision of protecting creation.”

Diversity characterized those who came: economists, ecological activists, experts from the financial sector, students, entrepreneurs, people from a variety of different cultural and religious backgrounds, and from a wide age range – the youngest being only 9 years old! The younger participants were protagonists both in age-specific sessions involving interaction with experts in the fields of economy and ecology, and in cross-generational panels, contributing their own distinctive questions, proposals and life experiences.

“How good it has been to have the children and young people with us” exclaimed Josiane Gauthier, Secretary General of Catholic Development Alliance CIDSE, “to inspire us with their profound intelligence and grace and truth.”

The event highlighted examples of good economic practices. As Italian economist Stefano Zamagni explained, “Here are those who look ahead and dare to go beyond the obstacles. The current economic and social models no longer work.”

“These kind of economic practices already exist,” observed Lorna Gold, economist with Trocair, the Irish development agency, “but all too often they’re invisible in the media in our culture.”

A moment of dialogue between Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs and some youth participants in "Prophetic Economy"
A moment of dialogue between Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs and some youth participants in “Prophetic Economy”

The “Prophetic Economy Award” was launched to promote good practice through examples of the prophetic economy in action. Carlo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food Movement, acknowledged the award winners. “They practice a form of economic reality different from the norm, they see beyond the pervasive economic modes. They are not so much prophetic in vision, as in their daily practice.”

“This is not about utopias or ‘small islands’ within an unjust and unchanging system. Here, we’re looking at signals of tangible change,” observed Argentine economist Cristina Calvo. “In the face of massive global financial mechanisms, we often run the risk of feeling powerless. The antidote to being static is to widen the spectrum of action on all levels: micro, medium and macro.”

A significant element during this event was the space given to those living in situations of poverty or social exclusion to make their own voice heard.

“The time has come to rethink our economy and rethink our world, not ‘for’ the poor, not even with their participation, but starting from them,” concluded Jean Tonglet of ATD Fourth World. “Our knowledge is incomplete until it includes the knowledge of those we want to liberate from poverty, who struggle with its effects on a daily basis.”

The challenge launched by this event is to invent new ways of collaboration, in order to be stronger and more creative in efforts to change over to lifestyles based on a more sharing, more just and more sustainable economy.

“The new idea behind this event,” explained Italian economist Luigino Bruni, “was to bring ecology and economy together. In today’s world, we cannot speak of poverty without mentioning climate. One of the great messages of Pope Francis’ pontificate is the invitation to activate processes, not occupy spaces, because time is superior to space. Here, we can say that a process has begun.”

The younger participants spent time considering and embracing the challenge launched by the Food and Agriculture Organization so as to work to eradicate hunger in the world by 2030 (#zerohunger), formulating their own proposals:

  • to promote the idea of a “deferred meal,” asking restaurants and bars to encourage their clients to buy an extra meal for someone in need, and issuing a #zerohunger sticker to participating businesses;
  • to campaign for a new subject in the school curriculum to teach the Sustainable Development Goals promoted by the United Nations.

Prophetic Economy is an international project jointly run by seven organizations: Pope John XXIII Community Association, Nomadelfia, The Global Catholic Climate Movement, ATD Fourth World, Associazione Mondo di Comunità e Famiglia (World of Community
and Family Association), SlotMob initiative and the international Focolare Movement represented by its Economy of Communion project and the ‘Teens for Unity’ youth section.

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