God's Fatherhood and the Universal-Cosmic Fraternity

Bottega di Giotto, Allegoria della Povertà, Assisi, Basilica inferiore 1315 ca.<br />

Workshop of Giotto, Allegory of Poverty, Assisi, Lower Basilica ca. 1315 

“An Exhibit about Boundaries”: among History, Sociology, Theology and Economics

The economic and financial crisis broke the balance of the twenty years from 1989 until 2008 (fall of the Berlin Wall and the two opposing ideological blocs): capitalism now is looking for a new modality. The current spread of COVID-19 creates new uncertainties for global economic growth and causes a profound rethinking of the fundamentals of the current system. In order to get out of the shallows in which we find ourselves, it is necessary to recognize at the outset that the post-1989 historical phase now has closed. The solution is certainly not to go back to a previous time, but to dream and design a new phase, starting from the demand for humanization and fraternity.  These dynamics shine in Francis of Assisi, whose persona continues to be a source of inspiration today.  In this current "changing period”, a new economic model must be put in place, based on the humanism of fraternity (cf. Message of Pope Francis for the event, "Economy of Francis").

The rebirth of cities and the reawakening of the merchant, beginning in the 12th Century, owe much to the thought and practice of Franciscan theologians and preachers. The city, and the life that took place in it, serve somewhat as a litmus test to the developmental capacity inherent in the Franciscan vision vis-à-vis the many problems of coexistence among merchants, money changers, artisans, jewelers, furrier , weavers, etc. – all part of the vital capital of the new city adventure.  Francis sends the friars to the cities to proclaim and give witness to the Gospel of fraternity, made manifest in charity, sobriety and cooperation. Thus begins a new expression of societas (of being and living together in the community of men).  

The foundation and method of the new economy, inspired by the saint of Assisi and promoted by the Franciscans, is the principle of ‘fraternity’, combined with that of ‘minority’: the recognition of everyone as children of a single Father, all members of the one human family.  By reflecting upon the world and its creatures as a gift from God (Creator and Father of all), there springs an awareness of the primacy of the gift and its gratuitousness, a need to care for human beings, and a sense of a universal and cosmic brotherhood. For this fundamental reason from the Franciscans came the insights of the ‘Monte di Pietà’, the ‘Monte Frumentari”, and the ‘Reductions’, all of which offered an alternative to the ecclesiastically banned interest-bearing lending, and provided the basis for a future economic rationale.  Friar Francis, after more than eight centuries of history, continues to proclaim that man, created in the image of God, is made for communion: with God, with his brothers and sisters, and “cum tucte le creature” (with every creature). 

The oikos (home) is one.  A fraternal economy based on human relations, without an ecology and integral anthropology, is neither conceivable, nor achievable. Is it possible to conceive of an ecology and an economy that put God and man at the center of reality?  In this broad perspective, a question emerges: what would this economy for the individual and for humanity look like?  There does not emerge from the Franciscan vision an economic theory or ‘model’ per se, but rather it proposes multiple ideas of inspiration for those who must analyze the often-contradictory complexity of the current economic situation and plan new lines of economic development, along with a responsible ecology. In this sense, the images and the accompanying texts found in this exhibition seek to inspire and motivate fruitful initiatives for today, by calling to mind the thought and works of various figures representative of Franciscan spirituality.                   

To this reflective and informative path presented here - animated as it is by the beautiful pictorial cycles that adorn this basilica complex in Assisi, as well as modern day photos – you must add your own personal, internal journey.  The exhibit outlines a development from its hub, the figure of  Francis of Assisi and his followers, up to entreaties from Pope Francis “to change the current economy and restore a soul to the economy” of tomorrow.  This exhibition thus presents a pathway in which to realize the dream and the characteristics of a new economic humanism, lived by ‘il Poverello’ (the little poor man) of Assisi and his friars, that, with new categories and dynamics, is able to respond to the needs of humanity today in a way consistent with God’s design. 

God's Fatherhood and the Universal-Cosmic Fraternity