Below is a ZENIT translation of Pope Francis’ address to the groups of the “Policoro Project” of the Italian Episcopal Conference in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall this morning:
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I give you my cordial welcome. Thank you for having come in such numbers!
Born twenty years ago was the Policoro Project, fruit of the Ecclesiastical Congress of Palermo. The project came to light for a specific purpose: to single out answers to the existential question of so many young people that risk passing from work unemployment to life unemployment.
In its attempt to combine the Gospel with the concreteness of life, this project represented immediately a great initiative of youthful promotion, a real occasion of local development of a national dimension. Its forceful ideas marked its success: the formation of young people, the launching of cooperatives, the creation of mediation figures, such as the “community animators,” and a long series of concrete gestures, a visible sign of the commitment to active presence over these twenty years.
With its concrete attention to the territory and to the search for shared solutions, the Policoro Project has demonstrated how the quality of “free, creative. participative and solidaristic” work expresses and always makes the dignity of human life itself grow (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 192). We must not lose sight of the urgency to reaffirm this dignity! It is proper to each and all. Every worker has the right to see him protected, and in particular, young people must be able to cultivate the confidence that their efforts, their enthusiasm, the investment of their energies and their resources will not be futile.
How many young people today are victims of unemployment! And when there is no work, dignity is at risk, because the lack of work not only does not enable one to bring the bread home, but it does not make one feel worthy of earning one’s life! Young people are victims of this today. How many of them have by now stopped looking for work, resigned to the continuous rejections or indifference of a society that prizes only the privileged – even if they are corrupt – and impedes those who merit affirming themselves. The prize seems to go to those who are sure of themselves, although this security was acquired by corruption. Work is not a gift kindly granted to a few that are recommended: it is the right of all!
You certainly represent a concrete sign of hope for the many that are not resigned, but who have decided to commit themselves with courage to create or improve their own work possibilities. My invitation is that you continue to promote initiatives of youth involvement in a communal and participative way. There is often so much solitude behind a work project: sometimes our young people find themselves having to face a thousand difficulties without any help. The families themselves, which also support them, — often also economically – cannot do so much, and many are constrained to give up, discouraged.
You can do your part here. To the question, “What has the Church to do with my situation” – which you have said and felt so many times – the answer has been “testimony.” And here you can come in with your testimony, body to body, with those in need of courage, of support. To support new energies often for work; to promote a style of creativity that puts minds and arms around the same table; to think together, to plan together, to receive together and to give help: these are the most effective ways to express solidarity as gift. And here the Church comes in, because she is Mother of all! The Church brings everyone around the table.
Thus, young people rediscover the “vocation” to work – the vocation to work, which is one of the traits of human dignity; there is no vocation to laziness, but to work –, the lofty sense of a commitment that also goes beyond its economic result, to become the building of the world, of the society and of life. Often the idea of work as “fulfilment” of the person has been confused with a certain model of wealth and wellbeing, which pushes one to inhuman rhythms. Let it not be so for you: it is better to educate young generations to seek the just measure. One learns what is truly necessary in the school of the Gospel, so that our life does not slip from our hands, following the idols of a false wellbeing.
Therefore, the correct life is found in the school of the Gospel. It’s true, Jesus did not teach directly how to invent work possibilities for ourselves, but His word does not cease to be timely, concrete, alive, capable of touching the whole man and all men. It speaks to us also today: it exhorts us to make of our ideas, of our plans, of our desire to do and to create happy news for the world.
Your task is not simply to help young people to find an occupation: it is also the responsibility to evangelize, through the sanctifying value of work. Not of any work! Not of work that exploits, that crushes, that humiliates, that mortifies, but of work that renders man truly free, in keeping with his noble dignity.
Thank you for your commitment. I entrust you to the intercession of Saint Joseph the Worker. May the Face of God’s mercy, which always illumined the Holy Family entrusted to him in custody, shine on your path and indicate ways of creativity and hope. I have your work much at heart, because I suffer when I see so many young without work, unemployed. To think that here in Italy, from 25 years down almost 40% of youths are unemployed! What does a youth without work do? He gets sick and has to go to the psychiatrist, or he falls into addictions or commits suicide – the statistics of youth suicides are not published – or he seeks something that gives him an ideal and becomes a guerrilla. Think: these young people are our flesh, they are the flesh of Christ and therefore our work must go forward to support them and suffer in ourselves their hidden, silent suffering, which so anguishes their heart. I assure you of my prayer, I am close to you: count on me for this, because this touches me so much. And please, do not forget to pray for me, because I am also in need of prayers.
Our Lady looked at Saint Joseph, as he taught Jesus to work. Let us pray to Our Lady to teach us how to help to find work, work for so many young people.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]