In an address to the Italian Christian Workers Movement on its 50th anniversary, Pope Francis emphasised the Church’s commitment to the world of labour and the need for workers to feel at home within the Church.
“Fifty years are also a time to look realistically at one’s own history, made up of so much gratuitousness and also of hard work in Christian witness. It is important not to indulge in self-celebratory forms, but to recognize the action of the Holy Spirit in the folds of your history, not so much in the striking events, but rather in the humble and everyday ones. This anniversary could help you walk in two directions: a work of purification and a new sowing. Both: purify and sow.
“Purification is always necessary, always, for all of us and in all human experiences. We are sinners and need mercy like the air we breathe. The willingness to convert, to allow oneself to be purified, to change one’s life, to change one’s style, is a sign of courage, of strength, not of weakness; stubbornness is a sign of weakness.
“It is a question of welcoming the newness of the Spirit without placing obstacles: allowing young people to find space, that the spirit of gratuitousness be guarded and shared, that the initiative of the beginnings not be lost by preferring reassuring choices that do not help to experience the newness of the times .
“You are a movement born in the aftermath of Vatican II and you can tell the fruitfulness of that ecclesial and social season. I encourage you to rediscover the impetus of your beginnings, clearly visible in the enthusiasm with which you live the ecclesial bond in the territories and in the gratuitousness of service to the needs of workers.
“The Council has called us to read the signs of the times – and above all it has given us the example -; therefore, aware of the social changes, you can ask yourself: how can we be faithful to the service of workers today? How to live the commitment to ecological conversion and peacemaking? How to animate Italian society in the economic, political and working fields, contributing to discernment with the criteria of integral ecology and fraternity?
“Here are the reasons for a new sowing that awaits you. While celebrating, we look forward. Indeed, this is not only a time to reap fruit: it is also a time to sow again. The difficult season we are experiencing requires it. The pandemic and the war have made the social climate darker and more pessimistic. This calls you to be sowers of hope. Starting with yourself, with your associative fabric: may your doors be open; that young people feel not only guests, but protagonists, with their ability to imagine a different society.
“I would also like to offer you a specific commitment on the subject of work. You are a movement of workers, and you can help bring their concerns within the Christian community. It is important that workers are at home in parishes, associations, groups and movements; that their problems are taken seriously; that their call for solidarity can be heard. In fact, the work goes through a transformation phase that must be accompanied.
“Social inequalities, forms of slavery and exploitation, family poverty due to lack of work or poorly paid work are realities that must be listened to in our ecclesial environments. They are more or less forms of exploitation: we call things by name. I urge you to keep your mind and heart open to workers, especially the poor and defenceless; to give voice to the voiceless; not to worry so much about your members, but to be leaven in the social fabric of the country, leaven of justice and solidarity.
“The encyclical Fratelli tutti recalls that ‘thanks be to God so many aggregations and organizations of civil society help to compensate for the weaknesses of the international community, its lack of coordination in complex situations, its lack of attention to fundamental human rights and very critical situations of some groups. Thus the principle of subsidiarity acquires concrete expression, which guarantees the participation and action of communities and organizations of a lower level, which complement the action of the State in a complementary way’ (§ 175).
“This ongoing third world war makes us aware that renewal comes from below, where relationships are lived with solidarity and trust. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the courage of new beginnings of reconciliation and fraternity.”
Discorso del Santo Padre Al Movimento Cristiani Lavorati (Vatican.va)