06/17/2021, 18.14
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Pope calls for a reform of the economy that promotes the common good rather than discards the vulnerable

The pontiff released a video message on the occasion of a meeting of the International Labour organisation. He bemoans the “excessive fixations on profits, isolation and nationalism, blind consumerism and denial of the clear evidence of discrimination against our ‘dispensable’ brothers and sisters”. Francis defends the right of workers to form unions and urges protection for women.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis released a long video message on the occasion of the 109th International Labour conference of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which is currently underway virtually.

In his statement, the pontiff said that the tensions associated with reviving the economy, badly mauled by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, especially in terms of job losses, must lead to “a deep reform of the economy.”

For Francis, we must avoid “excessive fixations on profits, isolation and nationalism, blind consumerism and denial of the clear evidence of discrimination against our ‘dispensable’ brothers and sisters in our society.” Instead, we must promote economic as well as cultural and political solidarity.

“The right to private property is always accompanied by the primary and prior principle of the subordination of all private property to the universal destination of the earth’s goods, and thus the right of all to their use.” In this sense, private property is “a secondary right, which depends on this primary right, which is the universal destination of goods.”

Noting that “Many of the possible and expected upheavals have not yet manifested themselves,” Francis calls for “careful decisions”.

Turning to the pandemic, the Holy Father said that it has been particularly hard on “low-skilled workers, day labourers, those who work illegally, migrant and refugee workers, those who carry out what is commonly referred to as ‘work of the three dimensions’: dangerous, dirty and degrading, and the list could go on.” For these people, no social welfare nor medical care have been available.

In view of the situation, “The most vulnerable – young people, migrants, indigenous communities, and the poor – cannot be set aside” when governments, businesses and workers discuss the common good. Instead, they must be part of the process to build a “solidarity-based and sustainable future for our common home”.

Religious groups must also work together to achieve this goal. And a real dialogue is possible only when everybody has the same rights and duties.

With respect to the disadvantaged, women should play a major role. Too “many women around the world continue to mourn the lack of freedom, justice and equality among all human beings.” Despite “significant advances”, there is a long way to go” since some “Unacceptable customs still need to be eliminated” such as domestic violence, slavery and unequal “access to dignified work and roles of decision-making”.

For the pontiff, workers have fundamental rights, such as the right to form trade unions. This right should be included in the reform of the economy. Otherwise, workers “run the risk of being attacked by a virus even worse than COVID-19: that of selfish indifference.”

In other words, “a society cannot progress by discarding” its most vulnerable. The danger is that we might “begin and end by selecting one person over another, rejecting the poor, sacrificing those who have been left behind, on the so-called ‘altar of progress’.” This “is a truly elitist dynamic, of building up new elites at the cost of discarding many people”

To avoid this, “I think it is time to finally free ourselves of the legacy of the Enlightenment, which associated the word culture with a certain type of intellectual formation and social belonging. Every people has its own culture and we have to accept it as it is.”

The video message ends with an appeal to governments and political leaders to be inspired by “that form of love that is political charity” so as to  “organise and structure society so that one’s neighbour will not find himself in poverty.”

Lastly, let me “remind businesspeople of their true vocation: to produce wealth in the service of all. Business activity is essentially ‘a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving our world. God encourages us to develop the talents he gave us, and he has made our universe one of immense potential. In God’s plan, each individual is called to promote his or her own development, and this includes discovering the best economic and technological means of multiplying goods and increasing wealth.’”

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