Pope Francis’ address today, June 28, 2017, to a delegation from the Italian Confederation of Workers’ Unions (CISL) in the Vatican this morning, before his General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, on the occasion of the 18th National Congress on the theme: “For the Person, For Work” (June 28 – July 1, 2017).
According to its website, CISL is the second largest Confederation of Trade Unions in Italy. It is composed of 19 major National branch (sector) federations: e.g. metalworkers, chemical, textile workers, public employees, service, agricultural workers, etc., and 9 other, as we say, secondary Federations), and affiliates salaried, white and blue collar employees, through its branch or sector federations.
Below is a Zenit working translation of the Pope’s address:
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The Holy Father’s Address
Dear Brothers and Sisters, I welcome you on the occasion of your Congress, and I thank the General Secretary for her presentation. You have chosen a very beautiful motto for this Congress: For the Person, for Work.”
Person and work are two words that can and must be together, because if we think and say work without the person, work ends up being something inhuman, which by forgetting people forgets itself and disappears. However, if we think of the person without work, we say something partial, incomplete, because a person is realized fully when he/she becomes a worker, because an individual becomes a person when he opens to others, to social life, when he flowers in work. A person flowers in work. Work is the most common form of cooperation that humanity has generated in its history. Every day millions of people cooperate simply by working: educating our children, actuating mechanical apparatuses, correctly filing practices in an office . . .Work is a form of civil love: it is not a romantic love or always intentional, but it is a true, authentic love, which makes us live and takes the world forward.
The person, certainly, is not only work . . . We must also think of the healthy culture of leisure, of being able to rest. This is not laziness; it is a human need. When I ask a man <or> a woman who has two <or> three children : “But, tell me, do you play with your children? Do you have this ‘leisure’?” “Oh, you know, when I go to work, they are still sleeping, and when I return, they are already in bed.” This is inhuman. Therefore, together with work there must also be the other culture, because a person is not only work, because we do not work always, and we must not always work. As children we do not work and should not work. We do not work when we are sick; we do not work when we are old. There are many persons that do not work, or that do not work anymore. All this is true and known, but it is also recalled today, when there are still too many children and youngster in the world who work and do not study, whereas study is the only good “work” of children and youngsters. And when the right to a just pension is not always recognized or not to all – just because one is neither too poor or too rich: “golden pensions” are an offense to work not less grave than too poor pensions, because they are such that the inequalities of the time of work become perennial. Or when a worker gets sick and is also rejected from the world of work in the name of efficiency — <but> instead if a sick person is able, in his/her limitations, to still work, work also carries out a therapeutic function: sometimes one is healed working with others, together with others, for others.
It is a proud and myopic society that constrains the elderly to work for too long and obliges an entire generation of young people not to work when they should do so for themselves and for all. When young people are outside of the world of work, companies lack energy, enthusiasm, innovation, joy of living, which are precious common goods that render economic life and public happiness better. Hence urgent is a new human social pact, a new social pact for work, which reduces the hours of work of those in the last working stage, to create work for young people who have the right-duty to work. The gift of work is the first gift of fathers and mothers to sons and daughters; it is the first patrimony of a society. It is the first dowry with which we help them to take off to in their free flight to adult life.
I would like to stress two epochal challenges that the labor movement must address and overcome today, if it wishes to continue to carry out its essential role for the common good.
The first is prophesy, and it has to do with the nature itself of the labor union, <with> its truest vocation. The labor union is expression of the prophetic profile of society. The labor union is born and reborn every time that, as the biblical prophets, it gives voice to those that do not have it, it denounces <the fact of> the poor one “sold for a pair of sandals” (Cf. Amos 2:6), unmasks the powerful that trample the rights of the most frail workers, defends the cause of the stranger, of the last, of the “rejected.” As the great tradition of CISL also demonstrates, the labor movement has its great seasons when it is prophesy. However, in our advanced, capitalistic societies, the labor union risks losing its prophetic nature and becoming too similar to the institutions and the powers that, instead, it should criticize. With the passing of time, the labor union has ended up being too similar to politics, or better, to political parties, in its language, in their style. And, instead, if this typical and different dimension is lacking, action inside companies also loses strength and efficacy. This is the prophesy.
Second challenge: innovation. Prophets are watchmen, who watch from their lookout. A labor union must also watch on the walls of the city of work, as a watchman that guards and protects those inside the city of work, but that also guards and protects those outside the walls. The labor union does not carry out its essential function of social innovation if it only watches over those who are inside, if it only protects the rights of those already working or retired. This is done, but it is half of your work. Your vocation is also to protect those who still do not have rights, the excluded from work who are also excluded from rights and from democracy.
The capitalism of our time does not understand the value of the labor union, because it has forgotten the social nature of the economy, of the company. This is one of the greatest sins. Market economy: no. We say social market economy, as Saint John Paul II taught us: social market economy. The economy has forgotten the social nature it has as vocation, the social nature of the company, of life, of bonds, and of pacts. But perhaps our society does not understand the labor union also because it does not see it fight enough in the places of “rights but not yet”: in the existential peripheries, among the rejected of work. We think of the 40% of young people 25 years old and under, who do not have work, here, in Italy. And you must fight there! They are existential peripheries. It is not seen fighting among the immigrants, the poor, who are under the walls of the city, or it simply does not understand it because sometimes — but it happens in every family – corruption has entered the heart of some unionists. Do not let yourselves be blocked by this. I know that you have been committed for some time in the right directions, especially with immigrants, with young people and with women. And what I am saying might seem out-of-date, however, in the world of work woman is still second class. You could say: “No, but there is this woman entrepreneur, and that other one . . .” Yes, but a woman earns less, she is more easily exploited. . . . Do something. I encourage you to continue and, if possible, to do more. To dwell in the peripheries could become a strategy of action, a priority of the labor union of today and of tomorrow. There is no good society without a good labor union, and there is no good labor union that is not reborn every day in the peripheries, which does not transform the rejected stones of the economy into corner stones. Syndicate is a beautiful word that comes from the Greek “dike,” namely justice, and “syn,” together: syn-dike, “justice together.” There is no justice together if it is not together with the excluded of today.
I thank you for this meeting; I bless you, I bless your work and I wish you every good for your Congress and your daily work. And when we, in the Church, undertake a mission, in a parish, for instance, the Bishop says: “Let us do the mission so that the whole parish is converted, that is, that it take a step for the better.” You also must “convert yourselves”: take a step for the better in your work, that it be better. Thank you!
And now, I ask you to pray for me, because I too must convert myself, in my work: every day I must do better to help and to carry out my vocation. Pray for me and I would like to give you the Lord’s blessing.
[Blessing][Original text: Italian] [Working Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]