“We live with our kind of prosperity at the expense of less developed countries”, a German bishop has decried.

“Boundless economic growth is impossible”

“Boundless economic growth is necessary according to the prevailing logic of the economy, but impossible according to the logic of ecology”, Bishop of Eichstätt Gregor Maria Hanke warned at an educational congress in Augsburg February 12.

The reason? Because the Earth is a limited system, the bishop explained.

“A lifestyle that is in touch with Creation will not do without it, especially for us in the industrialized countries”, Hanke warned.

Consumerism, cause of the drain on resources

The Bishop of Eichstätt blamed the desire to find meaning in life in consumerism on the loss of transcendence in the modern world and the ‘death of God’.

Consumer products, possessions, prestiges, experiences… the pull of the new and the desire to want more “is a driver of our global resource consumption”, Hanke decried.

The prelate acknowledged that the ecological and consumer awareness movement is counterintuitive.

“Why should it be a pleasure to renounce and share? How could having and owning fewer material things lead to joy? The logic of our economic system does not admit such a way of thinking”, Hanke recognised.

The bishop, though, on the importance of education to open up a different view of what constitutes a good life and to help prevent austerity being seen as a loss of quality of life.

“Laws alone are not capable of this”, Hanke warned, referring to the renunciation required of individuals to truly care for our Common Home and pointing to the need for “apropriate guidance and accompaniment” of children so that they adopt this point of view early, particularly in Catholic schools.

Children and young people need places of learning and role models, “which convey that the responsible use of resources and the renunciation [of material goods] are conducive to joy”, Hanke said.

Pope: “The powerful are never satisfied with the profits they make”

Hanke’s message at the education conference in Augsburg Wednesday coincided perfectly with Pope Francis’ post-Amazon Synod apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonía, out the same day, in which the pontiff deplored not only that “the globalized economy shamelessly damages human, social and cultural richness” but also that “the powerful are never satisfied with the profits they make, and the resources of economic power greatly increase as a result of scientific and technological advances”.

Hanke’s words also dovetailed with Pope Francis’ message to the World Economic Forum meeting at Davos January 21, in which the pontiff demanded that legislators and civil society actors put the human person, not the “mere pursuit of power or profit”, at the “very centre” of public policy.

“Truly integral human development can only flourish when all members of the human family are included in, and contribute to, pursuing the common good”, the Pope recalled in his message to the Davos Forum.

Francis later reiterated those same sentiments in his address February 6 to attendees at the Vatican workshop on “New Forms of Solidarity: Towards Fraternal Inclusion, Integration and Innovation”, in which the Pope insisted that “a rich world and a vibrant economy can and must put an end to poverty”.

Next on Novena:

‘Querida Amazonía’: 7 of the Pope’s most powerful political statements, beyond the Church debates

Pope pleads for economy based on “inclusion, care for our Common Home and integral human development”

Pope agitates for global economic reform: “A rich world can and must put an end to poverty”

Pope demands Davos put person, not power or profit, at centre of public policy

Thousands of young people to meet in Assisi to realise Pope’s dream of a “new economy on a human scale”

Pope denounces world’s “very weak” response to climate change “a source of grave concern”

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