Pope Francis has arrived in Campobasso for a one day pastoral visit to the Molise region in southern Italy.
His first engagement was to meet representatives of the world of work and industry at the University of Molise in Campobasso. The region is known for its agricultural and manufacturing-based economy.
Authorities, professors, students, university staff,
dear brothers and sisters of the world of work,
I thank you for your welcome. Thank you for having shared with me the reality that you live, the struggles and hopes. The Rector has taken a phrase that I once said: that our God is a God of surprises. It ‘s true, every day there is one, such is our Father. But he said something else about God, that I will now take: God that breaks the mold. And if we don’t have the courage to break the mold, we will never go forward because our God impels us to do this, to be creative about the future.
My visit to Molise begins from this encounter with the world of work, but the place in which we find ourselves is the university. And this is significant: it expresses the importance of research and training for responding to new and complex questions that the current economic crisis poses, locally, nationally and internationally. We heard the testimony a little while ago of a young farmer with his choice to do a degree course in agriculture and to work on the land “by vocation”. A good training program does not offer easy solutions, but it helps to have a more open and creative view to better exploit the area’s resources.
I fully agree with what has been said about “safeguarding” the earth, so that it bear fruit without being “exploited”. This is one of the greatest challenges of our time: converting ourselves to a development that respects creation. In America, my homeland, I see many forests, which have been stripped, [areas] that become land that cannot be cultivated, that cannot give life. This is our sin: we exploit the earth and do not let it give us what it harbors within, with the help of our cultivation.
Another challenge has emerged from the voice of the working mom, who also spoke on behalf of her family: her husband, the young child and the child in the womb. Hers is a plea for work and at the same time for the family. Thank you for this testimony! In fact, this is the time to try to reconcile work with family life.
I’ll tell you one thing: I hear confessions; not so much now as I did in the other dioceses. When a young mom or a dad comes to me, I ask: ‘How many children do you have?’ and I have another question,: ‘Tell me, do you play with your children?’. Most respond: ‘Pardon Father?’ – ‘Yes, yes: do you play? Do you waste time with your kids? ‘. We are losing this knowledge, this wisdom of how to play with our kids. The economic situation compels us to this, to lose this. Please waste time with your children! On Sunday: she referred to Sunday as the family day, to spend time together.
This is a “critical” point, a point that allows us to discern, to assess the quality of the human economic system in which we find ourselves. And within this context is the issue of Sunday working, which affects not only believers but everyone as an ethical choice. The question is: to what do we want to give priority? The work-free Sunday – with the exception of necessary services – is to say that the priority is not economic but human, to gratuity, to non-commercial relations but family, friends, for believers to be in relation with God and with the community. Perhaps it is time to ask whether to work on Sundays is a true freedom.
Dear friends, today I would like to add my voice to that of many workers and employers of this region in asking that it can be implemented here as a “labour pact.” I saw that in Molise you are trying to respond to the tragedy of unemployment by joining forces in a constructive way. Many jobs could be recovered through an agreed strategy with the national authorities, a “labour pact” that knows how to seize the opportunities offered by national and European norms. I encourage you to go ahead on this road, which can lead to good results here as well as in other regions.
Finally, I would like to tell you that I was struck by the fact that you have given me a painting that really represents “maternity”. Motherhood involves labour, but the labour of childbirth is oriented to life, is full of hope. So not only do I thank you for this gift, but I thank you even more for the testimony which it contains: that of a hopeful labour. Thank you!
Original: Italian[ZENIT working translation]