The right to rest, a retirement pension and maternity leave, among other workers’ rights, “based on the very nature of the person and his or her transcendent dignity,” were the key themes of Pope Francis’ address in St. Peter’s Square on Saturday to 23,000 member of the Italian National Social Security Institute (INPS).
The Pope emphasised the meaning of safeguarding the right to rest. “I do not refer only to that rest that is supported by and legitimised by social policy (such as the weekly day of rest and annual leave, to which every worker is entitled), but also and above all to a dimension of the human being that does not lack spiritual roots.”
God, Who instructs man to rest, also chose to rest on the seventh day. “Rest, in the language of faith, is therefore a human and divine dimension at the same time”, commented Francis. “With a single prerogative, though: that of not being a simple abstention from ordinary labour and effort, but rather an opportunity to fully live one’s condition as creatures elevated to filial dignity by God Himself. The need to ‘sanctify’ rest is therefore linked to that – offered each week on Sunday – of a time that enabled family, cultural, social and religious life to be taken care of, making a space and time for God and for many in all these aspects”.
The Pope then referred to the complex situations in the world of work nowadays, from unemployment to precarious guarantees for employees. “If you live like this, how can you ever rest? Rest is a right we all have when we work, but if the situation of unemployment, social injustice, illegal work and precariousness is so serious, how can I rest? What can we say? We can say – it is shameful – ‘But do you want to work?’. ‘Yes!’. ‘Very well, let’s make a deal. You can start work in September, but until July, and then July, August, and part of September you will neither eat nor rest…”. This happens these days! And it happens all over the world; it happens here in Rome, too! Rest, when there is work; otherwise there is no rest”.
The Holy Father went on to note that until just a short while ago it was normal to associate retirement and pensions with reaching old age in which it was possible to enjoy a well-earned rest and offer wisdom and advice to the new generations. However, “the contemporary age has significantly altered these rhythms. On the one hand, the possibility of rest has been brought forward, at times diluted, and at times renegotiated to aberrant extremes, to the point of distorting the very idea of ceasing to work. On the other hand, existential needs have not diminished for those who have lost or never had a job, or for those who are obliged to stop working for the most varied reasons. If you stop working, you can find yourself without healthcare”.
In this regard, the task of institutions such as INPS is to contribute to ensuring that the funds are not lacking for the subsistence of unemployed workers and their families. “Special attention for female work should not be missing from your priorities; nor should maternity assistance, which should always allow for the protection of a new life and those who serve this on a daily basis. There should be no lack of insurance for old age, sickness, and work-related accidents. The right to a pension must not be neglected, and I underline, the right, as this is what it is”.
“In the final analysis, working means prolonging God’s work in history, contributing in a personal, useful and creative way. Supporting employment, you support this work too. Furthermore, by guaranteeing dignified income to those who have to leave work, you affirm the most profound reality: work must not be another cog in the perverse mechanisms that grinds resources to obtain ever greater profits; it cannot therefore be prolonged or reduced in relation to the earnings of the few or of forms of production that sacrifice values, relationships and principles. This applies to the economy in general … and also to all the social institution whose subject and aim is and must be the human person”.
“Do not forget the person: this is imperative”, he concluded. “Love and serve the person with awareness, responsibility and willingness. Work for those who work, and not least for those would like to but cannot. Do this not as a work of solidarity but as a duty of justice and subsidiarity. Support the weakest, so that no-one lacks the dignity and freedom to live an authentically human life”.
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