Bruni: the encyclical is written by living it

by Fabio Poles

Published  l'11 ottobre 2009 in Gente Veneta, n. 39/2009

«It´s not so much encyclicals that change history and the lives of people. They change history if they are written with the blood of martyrs. He who works so that the strength of an encyclical can be a force of change in history – this is the testimony». With these words, Luigino Bruni, professor of Economy at the University of Milan-Bicocca, gave the opening speech to the 20th year of activity of the School of Formation in Political and Social Commitment of the Patriarchiate of Venice. He was invited to open the congress at the Laurentianum of Mestre with a comment on Benedict XVI´s new encyclical, "Caritas in Veritate". One-hundred people were present, among whom Monsignor Beniamino Pizziol, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Venice, who delivered the final certification to twenty graduate students.

"The test-bed, therefore, the greatest lesson, is always life. And this document gives voice to who writes history with blood," added Bruni. "A nice definition of ´Caritas in Veritate´ could be ´love earnestly´. In fact, caritas in Latin contains in itself the concepts of gratuitousness, fraternity and gift. And understood like this, caritas is a transformational force that acts in people and allows them to commit themselves also in the economic and social fields." In this way, people are put back in the center of economic. "They give life to the institutions by acting. These (institutions) arise from them (people), but they also have a life of their own which may need change. Just as good institutions give life to good structures, bad structures are the origin of sinful structures."

Commenting on the topic of "gratuitousness", central to the new encyclical, Bruni affirmed, "Gratuitousness doesn’t mean gratis, or free. It means adding something more, in terms of attention towards the other and wanting to do things for the good - which doesn´t have a price in trade relationships. If there had been just a little gratuitousness, the walls in Messina and in Aquila wouldn´t have crumbled" (Bruni refers to recent disasters in Italy).

Gratuitousness must live side-by-side with what is right and proper; it can find space in contracts, because it is something "transcendental", like beauty, goodness and justice. And what about fraternity, another of the important points of the new encyclical? "It makes your living more joyful, but it also makes you suffer more because you expose yourself to others, and this always carries the risk that the other does bad to you, hurts you. That is why the economy doesn’t like it and prefers philanthropy instead. With philanthropy, it’s possible to sympathize with an African who is dying of hunger, but you´re not required to have him by your side. You don’t expose yourself to his presence."

Concluding, Bruni said, "´Caritas in Veritate´ is a letter for all men and women, not only for believers. The true gamble, beyond faith, is recognizing that each person has within him a vocation to gratuitousness, to fraternity and to gift. In the end, perhaps under a thick shell, the other is always an ally, because every person is made in the image and likeness of God."

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