In a message at a conference in the Vatican, Francis asks not to ignore the excluded, fight corruption and educate consciences in solidarity. Many Argentinean trade unionists present
Cardinal Turkson and Secretary General Cisl, Annamaria Furlan, at the trade union conference in the Vatican
IACOPO SCARAMUZZI | VATICAN CITY
“Today there is at stake not only the dignity of the employed, but also the dignity of the labour of all people, and the home of all people, our mother earth.” So the Pope wrote in a message to an international meeting of trade union organizations that took place yesterday and today in the Vatican. In addition to stressing the need to guarantee to all the three Ls: land, lodgings and labour [the three Ts: tierra, techo y trabajo], Jorge Mario Bergoglio denounced the risk related to two other “Ts”, “continued acceleration of changes” and “a paradigm of power, rule and manipulation” that could drive the use of technology. Francis finally asked trade unionists not to ignore the excluded, to fight the temptation of corruption and to educate consciences in solidarity, respect and care.
The Pope did not address a speech to the participants, as it had been suggested, but sent a message. The meeting, entitled “From Populorum progressio to Laudato si’. Work and workers’ movements at the centre of integral, sustainable and fraternal human development” Why does the world of work continue to be the key to development in the global world?”, and was organized by the Vatican Department for the Service of Integral Human Development. In addition to the secretaries-general of Cgil, Cisl and Uil, Susanna Camusso, Annamaria Furlan and Carmelo Barbagallo, who are currently engaged in a discussion on pensions with the government, there are numerous Argentinean trade unionists present at a time when the debate is taking place in Bergoglio’s homeland on a reform of work promoted by the government of Mauricio Macri.
In the letter addressed to Cardinal Peter Appiah Turkson, Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery, after having recalled the centrality that Paul VI attributes to work in the Popolorum progressio, the Pope of Laudato si’ writes that, “When the economic development model is based solely on the material aspect of the person, or when it benefits some people only, or when it damages the environment, it provokes a cry, from both the poor and from the earth”. “This path, to be sustainable, must place the person and work at the centre of development, but integrating work and environmental concerns. Everything is interconnected, and we have to respond in a holistic way.”
For the Pope,”A valid contribution to this integral response from workers is to show to the world what you know well: the link between the three Ls: land, lodgings and labour [the three Ts: tierra, techo y trabajo]. We do not want a system of economic development that increases the number of unemployed, or homeless, or landless. The fruits of the land and of labour are for all, and – the Pontiff continues citing Vatican Council II “should be in abundance for all in like manner”. For Francis, “A shift from the current energy industry to a more renewable one is unavoidable to protect our mother earth.
But it is unjust for this movement to be paid for with the labour and homes of those most in need. Or rather, the cost of extracting energy from the earth, a universal common good, cannot fall on workers and their families.”
Pope Francis then points out “another triple connection: this time between labour, time and technology. With regard to time, we know that the “continued acceleration of changes” and the “intensified pace of life and work” which may be called “rapidification”, favour neither sustainable development nor its quality”. And, he continues by quoting also a McKinsey Global Institute study, “technology, from which we receive many benefits and many opportunities, can be an obstacle to sustainable development when associated with a paradigm of power, rule and manipulation.”
It is the workers – Jorge Mario Bergoglio writes – who, in their struggle for a just working day, learned to face a utilitarian, short-term and manipulative mentality. For this mindset, it does not matter if there is social and environmental degradation; it does not matter what one uses and what one discards; it does not matter if there is forced child labour or if a city’s river is polluted. The only thing that matters is immediate profit. Everything is justified on the basis of the god of money. Given that many of you have contributed to combating this pathology in the past, today you are well placed to correct it in the future. I beg you to confront this difficult theme and to show us, in accordance with your prophetic and creative mission, that a culture of encounter and care is possible. Today there is at stake not only the dignity of the employed, but also the dignity of the labour of all people, and the home of all people, our mother earth.”
Pope Francis warns trade unionists, “We cannot be ingenuous and think that dialogue will occur naturally and without conflict. There is a need for people who can work tirelessly to bring to life processes of dialogue at all levels: at the level of the business enterprise, the trade union, the movement; at the level of the neighbourhood, the city, regional, national and global. In this dialogue on development, all voices and visions are necessary, but especially the least-heard voices, those of the peripheries. I know the effort made by many people to make these voices emerge in the places where decisions are taken regarding work. I ask you to take on this noble commitment.”
The message ends with the Pope requesting Trade unions and workers’ movements to be on guard against three temptations”. The first is that of collectivist individualism, that is, protecting only the interests of those you represent, ignoring the rest of the poor, the marginalized and those excluded from the system It is necessary to invest in a solidarity that goes beyond the walls of your associations, that protects the rights of workers, but above all of those whose rights are not even recognized.” Then, to avoid the “social cancer” of corruption, because ” It is terrible to see the corruption of those who call themselves trade unionists, who make agreements with business leaders and are not interested in workers, leaving thousands of colleagues without work”; and, finally, not to forget your role of educating consciences in solidarity, respect and care.”