Pope Francis supports co-operative business model

22 Oct 2013

Pope Francis has backed co-operatives as being a crucial part of the global economy for the future.

In a meeting at the Vatican with the International Co-operative Alliance’s President Dame Pauline Green and Director-General Charles Gould, Pope Francis discussed how co-operatives can help to deal with some of the world’s problems.

He talked about a number of injustices in today’s society, and particularly the failure of the present economic model to meaningfully integrate young as well as elderly people. He questioned how society could let itself be carried to a point where highly developed nations such as Spain and Italy arrive at a 40 per cent youth unemployment rate.

Pope Francis emphasised his confidence in co-operative enterprises to build a future where people are at the center, instead of there to make profit. "If a block away people die of cold or hunger, it receives no news attention. Meanwhile, if stocks fall two or three points in London or New York, it’s on air immediately”, said Pope Francis.

During the meeting, Dame Pauline highlighted the importance of co-operation as an inclusive business model that contributes to eradicating poverty and improving socio-economic situation of the people. While, Mr Gould introduced the strategy behind the Co-operative Decade and highlighted a number of co-operative case studies through the Alliance's 'Building a Better World' book.

At the Vatican, the Pope recalled a story of his father in 1945 discussing the impact of co-operatives in local communities — and that this story has lived with him ever since. He also praised the movement’s sustainable vision for a more just, balanced and stable economy, and expressed the Vatican’s intent to ensure further contact between the co-operative sector with the Pontifical Council for Social Justice and Peace.

Also in attendance were Ramon Imperial Zuniga, President of ICA Americas, and Manuel Mariño, Regional Director of ICA Americas. Representing the Co-operative Confederation of the Argentinian Republic (Cooperar) during the meeting were Ariel Guarco, President, and Ricardo López, Secretary. The Argentine delegation presented the Pope with a gift produced by the worker co-operative Kbrones. The leather thermos flask holder was inscribed with the phrase "co-operatives build dignity".

After the meeting, Dame Pauline said: ”The co-operative sector is delighted to share this vision for a more inclusive, balanced and empowering society. It is another sign that the co-operative sector is working with the grain of society. We are continuing to drive the momentum that was driven by last year’s United Nations International Year of Co-operatives.”

Added Mr Gould: "The co-operative sector considers the Vatican’s invitation a historic landmark. People today feel disconnected from the dominant economic and social models, while those very models control their lives. I think you see this in the Occupy Wall Street / Occupy London / Occupy Everywhere movement, this idea that ‘this isn't working for us’. And it's not isolated, it's very widely felt.

“This most positive meeting with the Vatican confirms that the co-operative sector’s concerns are shared by important actors in society, and that we must join forces with other organizations outside the co-operative movement, sharing our resolve to improve, diversify and balance society and economy for the better.”

Photo: Director-General, Charles Gould, with President Dame Pauline Green and Regional Director for the Americas Region, Manuel Mariño, meeting Pope Francis in Vatican.