Vatican City, 23 May 2015 (VIS) - “We must ensure that through work – free, creative, participatory and mutually supportive – human beings may express and increase the dignity of their lives”, said Pope Francis this morning as he received in audience the members of the Christian Associations of Italian Workers (ACLI), who celebrate the 70th anniversary of their foundation this year.
The Holy Father took the opportunity to reflect on the scale and urgency of the employment problem in today's world and the need to propose equitable, fraternal and genuinely practicable solutions. “The spread of precariousness, illegal work and organised crime, especially among the younger generations, ensure that the lack of work robs dignity and obstructs the fullness of human life. This demands an immediate and vigorous response”, he said, then indicating the four features that should be present in all work.
Firstly, work must be free: the true freedom of work means that man, continuing the work of the Creator, ensures that the world reaches its objective. Too often, however, work is a vehicle for oppression at several levels: man against another man; new forms of organised slavery that oppress the poorest. “In particular, many children and women suffer as the result of an economy that obliges them to carry out undignified work that contradicts creation in its beauty and harmony. We must ensure that work is not a tool of alienation, but rather of hope and new life”.
Creative work allows one to use his or her unique and original abilities. This is achieved “when man is permitted to express with freedom and creativity in certain forms of activity, in collaborative work conducted in the community that enable full economic and social development to him and to others. We cannot clip the wings of those, especially the young, who have much to give with their intelligence and capacities; they must be freed of the burdens that oppress them and prevent them from fully entering the world of work as soon as possible”.
Participatory work corresponds to the relational dimension of the person, and involves the establishment of responsible bonds of collaboration. However, “when, due to an 'economistic' vision … others are regarded as a means and not an end, work loses its primary meaning as the continuation of God's work, a work destined for all humanity, so that all may benefit”.
Finally, mutually supportive work means responding to the many men and women who have lost their jobs or are seeking employment, above all with closeness and solidarity. Associations such as the ACLI, as places of welcome and encounter, must also identify opportunities for formation and professional training.
Francis went on to refer to some key aspects of the ACLI. The first is its presence outside Italy, which began with the phase of Italian emigration and continues to be valuable since many young people leave Italy to seek work pertinent to their studies or to enrich their professional experience. “Support them on their path”, he said. “In their eyes you may see the reflection of your parents or grandparents who travelled far to work”.
The Association is also engaged in the battle against poverty and that of the impoverishment of the middle classes. “Offering support, not only of an economic nature, to those below the poverty line, who have increased in number in Italy in recent years, can bring benefits to all of society. At the same time, those who yesterday lived a dignified life must be prevented from slipping into poverty. It takes very little these days to become poor: the loss of a job, an elderly relative who is no longer self-sufficient, sickness in the family, or even – think of this terrible paradox – the birth of a child. It is an important cultural battle, that of ensuring that welfare is considered to be the infrastructure of development rather than a cost. You can act as a coordinator and motor for the 'alliance against poverty', which proposes the development of a national plan for decent and dignified work”.
“Christian inspiration and the popular dimension determine that way of understanding and implementing the ACLI's historic triple fidelity to workers, democracy and the Church. In the current context, it may be said that these three attitudes may be summarised in one, new and simple: fidelity to the poor”.