About 40 leaders representing faith, business, media and government who are committed to constructing an economy that takes care of the environment, promotes peace, and advances the common good, gathered to participate in a roundtable discussion entitled “Care for our Common Home Building & Communicating an Economy that Promotes Sustainability & Peace”. The Tuesday morning, 7 November, event was hosted in the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and sponsored by the Vatican Dicasteries for Communication and for Promoting Integral Human Development.
This event follows up on and featured the climate crisis exhibit “Changes”, which includes the work of world-renowned photographers, combined with the words of Saint Francis of Assisi, under the direction of Lia and Marianna Beltrami. Lia Beltrami was on hand for the event, and described how this exhibit is one among others in the broader “Emotions to Generate Change” series created around various topics to create a better world.
Paolo Ruffini, Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, delivered the first intervention. He described both the roundtable, and the photographic exhibit, as a “call to action … to engage in an economy that promotes sustainable development” that puts the human person and safeguarding creation at the center. “It is up to us”, Dr. Ruffini also said, to build “a network of good and true communication”, “an ecosystem of sharing … to weave ethics into the future”, to rediscover “the idea that information, like education, is a public good, and as such must be defended”. “The future of our democracies”, Ruffini concluded, “depends on it”.
Cardinal Peter Turkson then welcomed event participants on behalf of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. The Catholic Church, the Cardinal explained, recognizes that science and faith are not opposed. In fact, he cited the establishment of the Academy itself as a means by which the Church actively learns from science. The Cardinal added that the Academy is in active dialogue through the scientists who belong to it, as well as with business leaders, to encourage active involvement to reverse climate change.
The last to speak prior to the open discussion was Jennifer Jordan-Saifi (ceo — Sustainable Market Initiative, launched by His Majesty King Charles iii when he was Prince of Wales), who spoke about the moral courage needed to face today’s international crises especially in view of the upcoming cop28 in Dubai.
JR Kerr, ceo of Handshake, moderated the roundtable discussion, basing it on the UN Sustainable Goals and Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’, both released in 2015, which provide a springboard for dialogue between faith-based and private sector leaders. Some topics that emerged during the exchange were: the role of art and communication in raising awareness and effective change, the importance of avoiding polarizing language, storytelling as a powerful art form to communicate messages, learning from past cultural shifts, and the necessity that change come from the bottom up rather than from the top down.
A second discussion was led by leaders in the economy and business sectors. Topics discussed here included the importance of data to demonstrate the financial losses governments sustain due to the consequences of climate change; Pope Francis’ focus on climate change and protecting “our common home”, through the use of non-polarizing language in addressing the issue in society; the plight of so many of the world’s uninsured populations who stand to lose so much from natural disasters caused by climate change; a concrete example of how one financial institution engages in sustainable finance through low-carbon transition investing and encourages its business clients to move in that direction; how the energy transition, unlike the simultaneous digital one, requires that everyone — individuals and organizations at every level — move in the same direction together; the need for new conceptual models in the business world to contribute to the changes needed to attain sustainability.
Sr Alessandra Smerilli, Secretary for the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, wrapped up the event. She emphasized the need that small entities, such as the Vatican and the people and organizations present, can make a difference at cop28, and in addressing other issues by connecting, working together and joining efforts. “If we do something together”, Sr Alessandra said, “perhaps something will change”.
Sr Bernadette M. Reis, fsp