VATICAN CITY — The Catholic Church calls for the creation of job opportunities and the recognition of the dignity of the poor, not simply for more handouts or expanded government welfare programs, Pope Francis said.
Acknowledging the dignity of every person, he said, requires a lot more than charity; it means devoting energy and imagination to creating jobs and opportunities for them to use their talents to feed their families.
Pope Francis made his remarks in a video message played Nov. 20 at the Italian church’s Festival of Catholic Social teaching, a gathering in Verona that included economists, business leaders and others interested in promoting social justice.
As the global economic crisis continues, he said, there is a “great temptation to stop and lick one’s wounds, seeing them as an excuse not to hear the cry of the poor and see the suffering of those who have lost the dignity of bringing bread home because they have lost their jobs.”
Christians are called to look beyond their own needs, broaden their horizons and trust that by working with others, including with governments, they can “unleash goodness and enjoy its fruits.”
“Today it is said that many things cannot be done because there is no money,” he said. Yet, “the money for weapons can be found, the money to make war, money for unscrupulous financial transactions.”
At the same time, he said, there seems to be no money “to create jobs, to invest in learning, in people’s talents, to plan new welfare programs or to safeguard the environment.”
“The real problem isn’t money, but people,” he said. “We cannot ask money to do what only people can do or create. Money alone will not create development; to promote development we need people who have the courage to take the initiative.”
“Taking the initiative means overcoming excessive aid,” he said, “better on a different future and a different way of resolving problems.”
Pope Francis spoke about the father of a young man with Down syndrome who joined with other parents and people with Down syndrome to form a cooperative, and then found a for-profit company willing to sell what the cooperative made.
The dad, he said, needed the support offered by the state and by private organizations, but he was not content until he found a way to help his son make a living.
If the father had not taken the initiative, the pope said, he would have been stuck asking the state for everything.
When Christians look for ways to create new jobs, new ways of organizing a labor force and new ideas for employee participation schemes, Pope Francis said, they should put an important Gospel value into the mix: love.
“Love is a real force for change,” he said. It is what makes people refuse to stop at the ordinary and predictable, giving more of themselves than they thought possible.”