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How CEOs Can Be ‘Partners With God’

December 2, 2016, 11:01 AM UTC

CEOs as “partners with God”? That’s how the Vatican, for all of its criticism of free markets, views corporate leaders. But it’s a lofty description that comes with a high bar.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, a Ghanaian who regularly appears on short-lists of future papal candidates, described the private sector as a “partner with God in bringing [the earth’s] resources” to humanity. Turkson spoke at the opening day of the Fortune+Time Global Forum in Rome, a historic event at which global business leaders are crafting a social compact with Pope Francis on creating a more inclusive global economy.

Turkson offered “an invitation to business to recognize themselves in this transformative role…as co-creators with God [producing] good for humanity.”

At the same time, however, Turkson urged corporate leaders to take a more “holistic view of business and its activities” — and put the “well-being of the human person,” not profits, at the center of their strategies.

In his interview with veteran talk show host Charlie Rose, Turkson also exhorted business leaders to ensure that “work itself is dignified.”

“Work expresses creativity” and enables people to deploy their “God-endowed riches,” said Turkson, who is president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and was recently named the Pope’s point-person on poverty issues. Turkson specifically raised concerns about the impact of fast-changing technology, such as artificial intelligence, on good jobs.

While crediting markets with lifting billions out of poverty, Turkson argued that the spread of capitalism has also “widened the gap between rich and poor.” He urged global companies to deploy reforms in their supply chains to battle extreme poverty in places like sub-Saharan Africa.