Vatican City (AsiaNews) - In a heartfelt appeal in today's general audience, which falls on the feast day of Saint Joseph the Worker as well as International Workers' Day, Pope Francis said that the whole world must undertake "decisive action" against human trafficking and "slave labour", which de-humanises workers and denies them their dignity.
The Holy Father dedicated his catechesis to the figure of Joseph, but also to the topic of work in today's world, and to its crisis, to unemployment caused too often by a "purely economic conception of society, which seeks selfish profit, beyond the parameters of social justice."
Speaking to tens of thousands of people in St Peter's Square, the pontiff noted that "there is a light at the end of every tunnel", stressing the importance of prayer and contemplation, as well as friendship with Jesus.
After the customary sign of the cross and liturgical greeting, the general audience began with a passage from the Gospel according to Matthew, which refers to Jesus teaching in the Nazareth synagogue, and the amazement of those present, who wondered if the wise man was "the carpenter's son."
For the pope, Jesus enters history "with the presence of Saint Joseph, the legal father who cares for him and also teaches him his work. Jesus is born and lives in a family, in the Holy Family, learning the craft of carpenter from Saint Joseph in his workshop in Nazareth, sharing with him the commitment, effort, satisfaction and also the difficulties of every day."
"This," Francis said, "reminds us of the dignity and importance of work. The book of Genesis tells us that God created man and woman entrusting them with the task of filling the earth. This does not mean exploiting it, but rather caring for all the goods of creation and in this way participate in the work of creation."
In a forceful tone, the pope added that "Work is fundamental to the dignity of a person. Work, to use an image, 'anoints' us with dignity, fills us with dignity, makes us similar to God, who has worked and still works, who always acts; it gives you the ability to maintain ourselves, our family, to contribute to the growth of our nation."
In his plea, Francis added, "I think of the difficulties which, in various countries, today afflicts the world of work and business; I think of how many, and not just young people, are unemployed, many times due to a purely economic conception of society, which seeks selfish profit, beyond the parameters of social justice."
"I wish to extend an invitation in favour of solidarity to everyone. I would like to encourage those in public office to make every effort to give new impetus to employment. This means caring for the dignity of the person. But above all, I would say: Do not lose hope! Saint Joseph also had moments of difficulty but he never lost faith and was able to overcome them, in the certainty that God never abandons us."
Speaking directly to young people, Pope Francis told them, "be committed to your daily duties, your study, your work, to relationships of friendship, to helping others. Your future also depends on how you live these precious years of your life. Do not be afraid of commitment, sacrifice, and do not look with fear towards the future; keep your hope alive: there is always a light on the horizon."
Still, light notwithstanding, Francis went on to say, "I would like to add a word about another particular work situation that concerns me. I am referring to what we might call 'slave labour', the work that enslaves. How many people worldwide are victims of this type of slavery, in which the person is at the service of his or her work, while work should offer a service to people so they may have dignity. I ask my brothers and sisters in faith and all men and women of good will for a decisive choice to combat trafficking in persons, which includes 'slave labour'."
In view of this emergency, Jesus and his family's witness can help mankind. "In the silence of daily events, Saint Joseph, together with Mary, had one common centre of attention: Jesus. They accompanied and nurtured, with commitment and tenderness, the growth of the Son of God made man for us, reflecting on everything that happened. In the Gospels, Saint Luke twice emphasises Mary's attitude, which is also that of Saint Joseph: She kept all these things and pondered them in her heart."
"In order to listen to the Lord," the pope said, "we must learn to contemplate Him, feel His constant presence in our lives. We must stop and talk to Him, give Him space in prayer. Each of us, even you boys and girls, young people, so many of you here this morning, should ask: How much space do I give to the Lord? Do I stop to talk with him? Ever since we were children, our parents have accustomed us to start and end the day with a prayer, to teach us to feel that God's friendship and love accompany us."
"I would like to stress the importance and beauty of the prayer of the Holy Rosary in this month of May. Reciting the Hail Mary, we are led to contemplate the mysteries of Jesus, that is, to reflect on the key moments of his life, so that, as with Mary and Saint Joseph, He is the centre of our thoughts, our attention and our actions.
"It would be nice," Francis noted, "especially in this month of May, if we could recite the Holy Rosary together, in the family, with friends, in the parish, or say some prayers to Jesus and the Virgin Mary! Praying together is a precious moment that further strengthens family life, and friendship! Let us learn to pray more in the family and as a family!"
"Dear brothers and sisters, let us ask Saint Joseph and the Virgin Mary to teach us to be faithful to our daily tasks, to live our faith in the actions of everyday life and to give more space to the Lord in our lives, to stop to contemplate His face. Thank you."