Members of the Focolare Movement’s Singapore delegation meet Pope Francis.

Madam Delphine Sng, a parishioner at the Church of St Francis Xavier, never dreamed she would get to meet the Holy Father. But when Pope Francis came to be just in front of her, at a recent private audience, she felt the call to work for humanity in a new way.

Madam Sng had travelled with her husband, Theodore Chan, as part of the Focolare Movement’s Singapore delegation to the international Economy of Communion (EoC) conference, held at Castel Gandolfo, near Rome, from Feb 2-5.

The EoC is one of the key, continuing projects in the Focolare Movement, inspired by the first Christians, who put everything into communion so that no one would be in need.

Members of the EoC today are spread throughout the world and include business owners, workers, academics and students, investors and entrepreneurs.

Towards the end of the EoC’s 25th anniversary, the conference’s delegates were invited for a private audience with Pope Francis. In his remarks to the delegates on Feb 4, the Holy Father acknowledged the work of the EoC, noting that by incorporating “communion” into the economy, the project has begun “a profound change in the way of seeing and living business”.

He called on the EoC members to build a new economic system – one that prevents the creation of disadvantaged people. And, in order to do so, people must be ready to give more than just money. “The Economy of Communion, if it wants to be faithful to its charism, must not only care for the victims, but build a system where there are fewer victims, where, possibly, there may no longer be any,” he said.

Mr Chan and Madam Sng were very encouraged by the meeting with the pope. “It’s a personal validation [of the EoC] from the pope,” Mr Chan said.

Madam Sng added: “His message to me was about finding love, joy and hope in EoC, where the culture of giving must overtake current economic structures built around capitalism.”

The nine delegates from the Singapore group included two Malaysians and a Vietnamese.

What is the Economy of Communion?

The Economy of Communion was started by Ms Chiara Lubich, the Focolare’s founder, in May 1991 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Ms Lubich had been moved to act by the abject poverty she had witnessed in the city’s slums, which the then Archbishop of Sao Paulo described as surrounding the city’s skyscrapers like a “crown of thorns”. In launching the EoC,
Ms Lubich said there should be “businesses starting up here whose profits would be freely shared with the same aim as the early Christian communities.”

Ms Chiara Lubich founded the Focolare Movement in 1991.

An “industrial park” was created in Brazil, where members of the movement raised capital and started small businesses.

The aim was to create jobs, help those in need, and ensure no one was left in poverty.

The initial mandate of businesses in the EoC was the contribution of profits, at their discretion, towards the community.

Today, that direction has expanded to include how businesses are managed, the relationships between employers and their staff, as well as between customer and supplier.

Businesses in the EoC have a set of shared values and practices that build fraternity, instead of engendering the divisions often found in typical organisations. Today, the EoC is present worldwide, and includes all participants of the economy – from economists, investors and capitalists, business owners and entrepreneurs to workers, managers, students and consumers.

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