This past weekend, the 100 attendees at UFI’s Global CEO Summit were treated to a rare meet and greet with Pope Francis I at the Vatican. The invitation-only event took place from February 5-7 in Rome, and ended with a private meeting in the Clementine Salon inside the papal palace in Vatican City.
The event was organized by Pietro Piccinetti, CEO of Fiera Roma, which hosted the UFI gala dinner. Like the pope, Piccinetti grew up in South America (Venezuela) and so might have had an advantage speaking in Spanish with the Argentine-born Francis I. After delivering his address, Francis I was presented with gifts of Argentine chocolate and tea, and despite worldwide concern over the coronavirus, the pontiff shook hands and spoke individually with all of the attendees.
In his address, Francis I showed an understanding of the benefits of the meetings industry. He said, “it has been shown that fairs and exhibitions not only have positive effects on regional economies and labor markets, but also offer significant opportunities for showcasing to the wider world the rich diversity and beauty of local cultures and ecosystems.” He also commended planners on their work, saying that it had a “transcendent dimension” because it “strengthens bonds of solidarity and fosters mutual enrichment between the members of our human family.” The pope also referenced the breadth of a planners’ task to manage everything from the lighting to waste management.
Mary Larkin, UFI president and president of Diversified Communications U.S.A., called the meeting “a great honor.” She said that “often in our everyday work life, we focus very much on delivering the next event. Today carried a powerful message that the social and cultural dimension of our work deserves just as much attention.”
Click here to read the address in full.