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Pope Francis: Labour must be free, creative, participatory, and mutually-supportive

Pope Francis: Labour must be free, creative, participatory, and mutually-supportive

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis spoke to the Italian Christian Workers Associations (ACLI) on Saturday in the Vatican on occasion of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Association.

Listen to the report by Devin Watkins:

In his speech to the Italian Christian Workers Associations – also known as the ACLI – Pope Francis exhorted those present to support a culture of dignified labour.

He denounced the ‘god of money’ at the heart of our global economic system, promoting a culture of waste which throws away children and the elderly.

Recalling his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, the Holy Father focused on the need for a culture of ‘free, creative, participatory, and mutually-supportive labour’, by examining each term in depth.

‘True freedom of labour means that man, continuing the work of the Creator, helps the world rediscover its purpose: to be the work of God which incarnates and extends the image of his presence in Creation and in human history’, the Pope said.

The relational aspect is the truly human characteristic of labour which allows man to leave his mark on reality.  This means that labour must be done in solidarity in order to be of benefit for all.

Closing his remarks, Pope Francis noted that Christian inspiration is the cornerstone of the ACLI Association which allows them to apply the social doctrine of the Church to the challenges of the contemporary world.

By being faithful to their founding commitments – to workers, to democracy, and to the world – ACLI workers can apply the Church’s teaching in a new and timeless – commitment to the poor


Below, please find the English translation of the Pope’s address to ACLI

Speech to the Italian Christian Workers Associations (ACLI)

23/05/2015  12.00

Dear brothers and sisters,

I greet you with affection on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Italian Christian Workers Associations, and I thank the President for his kind words. This anniversary is an important opportunity to reflect upon the “soul” of your Association and upon the fundamental reasons which prompted you and which prompt you still to live it with commitment and passion.

New questions knock at the gates of your association today, which require new and qualified answers. That which has changed in the global world are not so much the problems, as their size and urgency. Incomparable are the amplitude and the speed of reproduction of inequalities. This we cannot allow! We must propose fair alternatives which are truly practicable.

The extension of insecurity, illegal labour, and gangster-style blackmail cause the sensation, especially among the younger generations, that job insecurity takes away dignity, prevents the fullness of human life, and calls for an immediate and vigorous answer.  It must be a prompt and vigorous response against this global economic system where the center of human life is an idol, the god of money. That is what truly commands! And this god of money destroys and causes the culture of waste: one discards babies because they are not conceived, or they are exploited or killed before birth.  The elderly are discarded, because they do not have decent care, do not have medicine, or receive miserable pensions.  And now, we even discard young people. Think, in this land so generous, think about that 40% of young people aged 25 years and under who do not have work, are waste material, but are also the sacrifice which this society, worldly and selfish, is offering to the god of money, which is the center of our world economic system. Before this culture of waste, I call upon you to realize a dream which soars higher. We must ensure that, through labour – “free, creative, participatory, and mutually-supportive labour” (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 192) – the human being expresses and increases the dignity of their lives. I would like to focus on these four characteristics of labour.

Free labour. True freedom of labour means that man, continuing the work of the Creator, helps the world rediscover its purpose: to be the work of God which incarnates and extends the image of his presence in Creation and in human history. Too often, however, labour is subject to oppression at different levels:  of one person over the other; of new slavery organizations which oppress the poor; in particular, many women and children endure an economy which forces them to work in degrading conditions that contradict the beauty and harmony of Creation. We must ensure that labour is not an instrument of alienation, but of hope and new life.

Creative labour. Every man carries within himself an original and unique ability to draw, from himself and from the people with whom he works, the good which God has put in his heart. Every man and woman is a poet, capable of being creative. But this can occur only when man is permitted to express freedom and creativity in some form of enterprise or collaborative work done in community, which allows him and others a complete economic and social development. We cannot clip the wings of all, especially young people, who have so much to offer with their intelligence and ability. They must be freed from the burdens which oppress them and which prevent them from entering in their own right into the world of labour.

Participatory labour. In order to leave his mark on reality, man is called upon to express his labour according to the logic imbedded in him – the relational aspect – that is, to see always the purpose of labour as the face of the other and as responsible cooperation with other persons. It is there, where, because of a purely economic vision, one thinks of a person in an egocentric key and of others as a means and not as an end.  At that point, labour loses its primary sense of the continuation of the work of God, a work destined for all humanity so that all may benefit.

Mutually-supportive labour. Every day you each meet people who have lost their jobs – this makes one cry –, or are seeking employment. They take what may come. Some months ago, a lady told me that she had taken a job of 10 to 11 hours, with no contract, for 600 euros per month. And when she said: “But, nothing more?” “Ah, if you don’t like it then go away! Look at the line behind you.” How many people are  looking for jobs, people who want to bring home bread not only to eat, but to bring home food, that is, dignity. People want to bring home bread for their family. A proper response must be given to these people. First, it is a duty to offer one’s proximity and solidarity. The many “circles” of ACLI, which are today represented here by you, can be places of welcome and meeting. Then, however, appropriate tools and opportunities must also be given.  What is needed is the commitment of your Association and the services it offers to contribute these job opportunities and new avenues of employment and professionalism.

So: freedom, creativity, participation, and solidarity. These features are part of the history of the ACLI. Today, more than ever, you are called to put them in the field, without sparing yourselves, in the service of a decent life for all.

I would like to touch briefly upon three more aspects. The first: your presence outside Italy. Begun in the wake of Italian emigration, even overseas, it has a very current value. Today many young people go abroad to find a job suitable to their studies or to live a different experience of professionalism. I encourage you to welcome them, to support them on their path, and to offer your support for their inclusion [in the local society]. In their eyes you can find a reflection of the look of your parents or your grandparents who went far away for work. May you be a good reference point for them.

In addition, your Association is addressing the issue of the fight against poverty and the impoverishment of the middle classes. The proposal of support – not only economic – to people below the absolute poverty line, which in Italy have increased in recent years, can bring benefits to all of society. At the same time, those who until recently lived a dignified life must not be allowed to slip into poverty.  In the parish Caritas, we see this every day: men and women who come hidden to take food to eat. They come in secret because they have become poor in from one month to the next. They are ashamed.  It is all too easy to become poor today:  job loss, an elderly person who is no longer self-sufficient, an illness in the family, even – think of the terrible paradox – the birth of a child. It is an important cultural battle to consider the welfare infrastructure as a development structure and not as a cost. You can act as coordinators and as the motor of the ”new Alliance against poverty “, which aims to develop a national plan for decent and dignified labour.

Last but not least, may your commitment always have its principle and its glue in what you call Christian inspiration, which refers to the constant fidelity to Jesus Christ and to the Word of God, to study and apply the Social Doctrine of the Church when confronted with the new challenges of the contemporary world.

Christian inspiration and the popular dimension determine the proper understanding with which to re-enact the historic triple commitments of ACLI:  to workers, to democracy, and to the Church. To the point that in the current context, in some way you could say that your historical three commitments are reassumed in a new and timeless:  commitment to the poor.

Thank you for this meeting, and I bless you and your labour. Please do not forget to pray for me.

Now, before giving the blessing, I invite you to pray to the Virgin: the Madonna who is so faithful to the poor, because she was poor. Hail Mary, …

(from Vatican Radio)