A book publishing conversations between Pope Francis and Carlo Petrini, the founder of the Slow Food organization, highlights the pope’s emphasis on dialogue with others.
Petrini, 71, is a well-known Italian gastronomist, agnostic, and ex-communist. It is in this context that the author introduces the three “dialogues” on integral ecology he had with Pope Francis between May 2018 and July 2020.
Petrini, also known by the name “Carlin,” notes in the book’s introduction that he and Pope Francis are “two people with extremely different stories and lives.”
“TerraFutura” (“FutureEarth”), which comes out Sept. 9 in Italian, recounts these three conversations, an impetus for which was Francis’ encyclical Laudato si’.
The dialogues make up the first 67 pages of the book. The second part is Petrini’s personal reflections on the themes of biodiversity, economy, community, migration, and education.
The book also includes selected papal speeches and excerpts from the apostolic exhortations Querida Amazonia and Evangelii Gaudium.
Speakers at a presentation of the book Sept. 8 emphasized its format and the importance of dialogue for Pope Francis.
“This book is important not only for the content, but for the method,” Fr. Antonio Spadaro, director of Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica, said.
He noted that these are the pope’s “private words” made public. “I didn’t read this book as three interviews,” he added, “but as three conversations, three exchanges.”
Spadaro also highlighted the pope’s response to Petrini’s agnosticism during the first dialogue. Francis called Petrini a “pious agnostic.” He added: “You have piety for nature and this is a noble attitude.”
Asked Sept. 8 if his mentality had changed or if he was still an agnostic after the three dialogues with Pope Francis, Petrini responded that he is still an agnostic, but “let’s hope. I don’t know.”
He said he would repeat a phrase of a saint from his part of Italy, St. Giuseppe Benedetto Cottolengo: “I never put limits on Providence.”
In the first conversation with the pope, Petrini suggests that certain messages, such as that of Laudato si’, remain completely in the “hand of the Catholic world, and us non-believers fail to understand the cultural and political potential of this message.”
Pope Francis said that “dialogue is very important. Laudato si’ is a common point of both sides, because it was written for everyone.”
“Even believers, those who are open to the transcendent, must understand agnostic humanism, which is a reality. It is on that level of understanding that we can dialogue,” he observed.
Petrini was also a participant in the October 2019 Amazon synod, which he called “one of the most beautiful moments of my life.”
Petrini’s Slow Food organization, founded in 1989 to safeguard local food cultures and traditions, and the Catholic diocese of Rieti in Italy started the “International Laudato si’ Communities” project.
Bishop Domenico Pompili of Rieti is a close friend of Petrini, and the two presented the project to Pope Francis. It was from this encounter that the idea for the book was born, Petrini said.