(Source: CD/Vatican News)

In a new book length interview, Pope Francis has given a sneak peek of his forthcoming third encyclical, railing against the “savage market economy” and “violent social injustice”.

– Conversations with the founder of the “Slow Food” movement

The working translation of the title of the Italian book on the shelves from September 9 is “TerraFutura. Conversations with Pope Francis on integral ecology”.

The author, Carlo Petrini, is the founder of the global “Slow Food” movement, which was established in the 1980s to safeguard regional traditions in the face of a spiralling “fast food” consumeristic cultural and economic trend.

It has since evolved to embrace a comprehensive approach to food and lifestyle that recognises the strong connection between behaviour, food production and consumption, economics and the planet.

This latest book by Petrini stems from his desire to uphold and encourage Pope Francis’ invitation to tackle and change a destructive pattern that has led to widespread social and environmental injustice and take action to “care for our Common Home”, as the Pope writes in his 2015 encyclical Laudato si’.

Based on the concept of “integral ecology”, the book is based on three “frank and friendly” personal conversations between Petrini and the Pope, who discuss their shared commitment to “cultivate and preserve” the goods of the planet, with respect and attention for the lives and livelihoods of all of its inhabitants, in an atmosphere of mutual solidarity.

The three conversations in question all took place in poignant and significant moments of modern history: the first in 2018 in the wake of a disastrous earthquake in central Italy; the second in 2019 just before the opening of the Synod of Bishops on the Amazon; and the third in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The volume is organised according to five different themes: biodiversity, economy, migration, education and community, all seen through a concrete and a spiritual perspective.

It is an urgent invitation to “reconnect” with the planet and its peoples in line with the Pope’s teaching.

– An ecological conversion to the “fight against selfishness”

Among many other points besides, in “TerraFutura” Pope Francis speaks about his own personal ecological conversion:

“At first I didn’t understand these issues either. Then, when I started to study, I realised; the scales fell from my eyes.

“I think it is right to give everyone time to understand. At the same time, however, we must also hurry to change our paradigms if we are to have a future”.

The pontiff also tells Petrini about the need for every single of us to take responsibility for the planet: “We must fight against selfishness, the thought that I can exploit Mother Earth because Mother Earth is big and has to give me what I want, full stop. It is a completely sick thought; it can only lead us to collapse”.

– “Laudato si’ is not a green encyclical”: “Environmentalism is not enough”

In his conversations with the founder of the “Slow Food” movement, the pontiff also insists that “Laudato si’ is not a green encyclical; it is not an environmentalist text. It is rather a social encyclical”.

Referring to his 2015 text, the pope says “this is not environmentalism, which, however noble it may be, is not enough.

“What we are talking about here is what model of coexistence and future we have and how to build it: at stake is the enormous question of social justice which, even today, in the interconnected and apparently prosperous world in which we live, is far from being achieved”.

Also on the point of the need to prepare for the future, Pope Francis speaks highly of the “Fridays for Future” movement against climate change started by Greta Thunberg.

The Swedish teenager and like-minded environmentally-conscious young people “are aware that this civilisation and this model are leaving them only crumbs and that if they don’t act now they risk finding themselves in trouble”, Francis reflected.

– On the future of Europe: “Without children and without migration, what awaits us?”

Elsewhere in his conversations with Petrini, the pope refers to critics he has attracted for his constant defence of migrants and the marginalised who say that “I’m losing my way because I took in the Gypsies in the Vatican”.

But reflecting on Europe’s closed-door policies to migration, Francis asks: “But where does this closure lead us, what is waiting for us?”

“We live in a Europe that no longer has children, that is violently closed to immigration and forgets its history of centuries of migration”, the pope deplores.

“What awaits us in the future? Without children and without migration, what awaits us?”, he asks of the future of Europe.

Taking his cue from that widespread antipathy in European countries to migrants and refugees, Francis goes on to decry the rise of populism on the continent, which he says “is the most convenient way to avoid the rise of popularism, the true soul of the people”.

“Populism has nothing to do with the people; on the contrary, it oppresses their soul, cages their most positive and noble spirit. […] Populism works on the people but without the people; it uses the instincts of the people in difficulty”, the pope laments.

– Racism “a current of selfishness that must be rejected”

One other political and social issue the pontiff discusses with Petrini is the disturbing rise of racism in Europe and beyond, which the pope describes as “a current of selfishness that hurts and must be rejected with charity and kindness”.

On globalisation, meanwhile, Francis returns to his thought that “globalisation is good if it is multifaceted” but not “spherical” – “that is, if each people is unique and maintains its own identity”.

“Flattening differences only hurts and is useless, it is a gigantic loss for all”, the pope warns.

– The need for a politics “that says ‘never’ to the mysticism of finance”

With regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, Francis observes that in the ten months of the outbreak humanity has been “trampled on by this virus and by so many viruses that we have made grow”, including by the “unjust” virus of a “savage market economy, a violent social injustice”.

To come out of the coronavirus crisis, the pope speaks of the need for a “politics that says ‘never’ to a savage market economy, ‘never’ to the mysticism of finance that cannot be grasped because it is air”.

“A new way of understanding the economy, a new protagonism of the people”, he stresses.

– Not the prosperity gospel, but a “theology of poverty”

Asked for his opinion on the fact that while most people desire “change” after COVID-19 powerful agents are working to return “to the same values as before”. the pope admits that “it is true that some are working on going back” to the status quo.

“But we must prepare something else! The alternative! And win with this alternative”, the pope emphasises, “because many people prepare themselves with three brushstrokes of paint to say ‘Ah, everything has changed’, but nothing has changed”.

While most are angling for change post-COVID, the strongest reactions to a refounded world order come from “a conception of economic liberalism” similar to “the Christianity of the theology of prosperity” or ‘prosperity gospel’, Francis notes. But he stresses: “that is not the way. In fact, the way is that of the theology of poverty”.

More hints on the content of the Popes forthcoming third encyclical Brothers all:

Francis urges “ecological retooling” of economy to counter “inhuman” pace of production, consumption

Pope insists only “profound and lasting ecological conversion” can heal world of social unrest

2/9: In General Audience, Pope insists solidarity the antidote to systems of injustice, oppression

Francis reminds humanity on Day of Prayer for Creation: “We are part of this interconnected web of life, not its masters”

Pope decries multinationals’ “outrageous… plundering” of natural resources: “We have to take care of Creation responsibly. Today”


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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.