Pope Benedict XVI has praised the Catholic cooperative movement for helping humanize the world of economics and business.
At the heart of the cooperative experience, said the Pope, is a “commitment to harmoniously order the individual and community dimensions.”
“It is the concrete expression of the solidarity and subsidiarity that the social doctrine of the Church has always promoted between the person and the state.”
The Pope’s remarks came in his address to a delegation from the Confederation of Italian Cooperatives and the Italian Federation of Cooperative Credit Banks, who met with him at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace Dec. 10.
Traditionally, cooperatives are small-scale economic groups that are owned collectively by members, often including employees. They became popular in Catholic countries following Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical “Rerum Novarum” which rejected both unbridled capitalism and state socialism.
“What prompted members to join cooperative-type organizations, often with the decisive contribution of the priests, was not only an economic requirement but also the desire to live an experience of unity and solidarity,” said the Pope.
Cooperatives often strike a respectful balance between this “solidarity” and the “rightful autonomy of the individual,” he observed. In this way the good of the person, the community and the economy can be promoted.
“Right intention, transparency, and the search for positive results are mutually compatible and must never be detached from one another,” said the Pope, quoting from his 2009 encyclical “Caritas in Veritate,” Charity in Truth.
“If love is wise, it can find ways of working in accordance with provident and just expediency, as is illustrated in a significant way by much of the experience of credit unions.”
Thus, cooperatives are “worthy institutions” that “carry within themselves the evangelical counsels.” They also have a role in evangelization in these times of “great change” and “economic insecurity.”
These institutions can help promote “a culture of life and family” and a vision in which the economy and the market will “never be separated from solidarity.”
Underpinning all that the cooperative members do, however, has to be “not mere philanthropy, but an expression of the love of God.”
Even in the economy and workplace, participants need to bring love and solidarity drawn from “an intense relationship with God” through “listening constantly to his word” and through nourishment from the Eucharist.
The Pope concluded his meeting by entrusting the efforts of the cooperative movement to the Virgin Mary. He assured attendees of his prayers and imparted his blessing on them and their loved ones.