“To all of you I appeal once more: ‘Do not forget the poor!’”
Pope Francis sent this message to the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday.
In a statement read by a top Vatican Cardinal, the Catholic leader urged business leaders to “not be afraid to open your minds and hearts to the poor.”
“Weeping for other people’s pain does not only mean sharing in their sufferings, but also and above all realizing that our own actions are a cause of injustice and inequality,” he added.
The statement to the assembled leaders of business and politics ranged from asking them to understand their responsibility in reversing global inequality to the need to be careful about the emerging digital economy.
The theme for this year’s World Economic Forum is “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” This entails a focus on artificial intelligence, robotics and autonomous vehicles.
Touching on this theme the pope implored the Forum to tread carefully. “In the face of profound and epochal changes, world leaders are challenged to ensure that the coming ‘fourth industrial revolution,’ the result of robotics and scientific and technological innovations, does not lead to the destruction of the human person – to be replaced by a soulless machine.”
There are concerns of widespread job loss whenever new technology arrives. But this time around is different. Never has the range of potential job loss been so broad. Robots could potentially overtake not just existing labor jobs across industries but also, increasingly, creative jobs. The pope is reminding economic leaders to hear these concerns as they move forward.
The pope’s statement did not pull any punches, telling economic leaders they had a duty to prevent “the transformation of our planet into an empty garden for the enjoyment of a chosen few.” A stark statement on the heels of news that 62 people own more money than 3.6 billion people.
But the pope’s words should reverberate beyond the World Economic Forum. His call to recognize that the “responsibility for our brothers and sisters is an essential part of our common humanity;” his concern about the impact of “epochal changes” in the structure of our economy on the world’s poor; and his belief that “our own actions” shape the world around us; should all be a call to arms for global citizens.
Because the pope knows something that all global citizens know, that “a united effort to pursue a sustainable and integral development” is the key to “build the future of the planet, ‘our common home.’”
Well said Pope Francis, well said indeed.