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Who to serve?

A speech by the Bishop of Milan offers an interesting take on business culture

It is important to ask ourselves questions about the meaning of the things we do. Perhaps it is even more important to ask ourselves what the real goals of our actions are. These are questions that apply to everyone. Including entrepreneurs and managers involved with production systems that can impact significantly on the surrounding environment and on the people that help them achieve their production targets.

“Contribution to a dialogue. Economics, work, social justice”, written and read by Mario Enrico Delpini, Bishop of Milan, at the LIUC during the celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of the death of Carlo Cattaneo, provides lots of interesting new perspective on these questions.

Delpini begins his discourse by considering how the Scriptures can help us to interpret the crisis facing us today. Beginning with one of the most famous passages from the Gospels (“You cannot serve God and money”), the Bishop outlines the risks of idolising wealth. “The idolatry of wealth/profit/efficiency – says Delpini -, leads us to pursue the foolish illusion that economic wellbeing can save lives and guarantee happiness, ignoring the precariousness of these idols (…)”. He continues: “The idolatry of wealth/profit/efficiency/accumulation depersonalises people and becomes systemic”. All of this while recognising that it is “legitimate for every businessman, teacher and student to ask themselves who they want to serve, the real God or the money god, because sometimes it is as if two types of god existed: one on Sundays and holidays, and the other from Monday to Friday”. Naturally, the danger is that “profit becomes a kind of illusory absolute, created by foolish men that lose all sense of proportion”.

With all this in mind, Delpini comes to the conclusion that a large part of the economic and production system needs to “change its tune”. A complex and difficult process but one that is possible if we begin from the premise that “looking after ‘human capital’ is a positive practice adopted by farsighted businesses”, an approach whose cornerstones include the sharing of values, the growth of people and the transfer of knowledge and these same values.

Although Delpini’s view of business culture comes from a strictly Christian perspective, his considerations will also find common ground with those that have different visions of the world. And if nothing else, the words of the Bishop of Milan make interesting reading for us all.

Contribution to a dialogue. “Economics, work, social justice”

Mario Enrico Delpini, Bishop of Milan,

LIUC, Castellanza, 14 May 2019

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