Yesterday morning Pope Francis arrived in Cagliari, on the Italian island of Sardinia, on his second pastoral visit in Italy, following his first trip to the Lampedusa in Sicily. Both islands are affected by serious problems: in Sicily, the arrival of immigrants, and in Sardinia, the lack of work on account of the closure of many factories.
The pontiff transferred from Cagliari airport to Largo Carlo Felice, where he was awaited by the religious and civil authorities, along with many people holding banners demanding work. Before the Pope's address, a young unemployed person, an entrepreneur and a union member spoke about their experiences. Moved by their words, Francis set aside the text he had prepared and spoke off the cuff.
“With this meeting I wish above all to express my closeness, especially in situations of suffering: to many young unemployed, to those in receipt of employment insurance or in precarious employment, and to struggling small businesses. It is a situation I know well from my experience in Argentina. I personally have not experienced this difficulty but my family has; my father, at a young age, went to Argentina full of illusions about 'finding America'. And he suffered throughout the terrible depression of the 1930s. They lost everything! There was no work! And at home, during my childhood, I heard talk of this time, of this suffering. … But I must say to you: 'Have courage!'. But I am also aware I have to do everything on my side too, so that this word 'courage' is not simply a beautiful but passing word, so that it is not simply the cordial smile of an priest, of an employee of the Church who comes and says to you, 'have courage'! No! I don't want that. I want this courage to come from within and to enable me to do all I can as a shepherd, as a man. We must face this with solidarity, among yourselves but also between us; we must face this historical challenge with solidarity and intelligence”.
“This is the second city I have visited in Italy. It is interesting to note that both – the first, and this one – are islands. In the first I witnessed the suffering of many people who risked their lives in search of dignity, bread, health: the world of refugees. And I saw the response of that city which, being an island, did not want to be isolated, and … gives us a fine example of welcome. … Here, in this second city-island I visit, again here I find suffering. … A suffering, the lack of work, that leads you to … feel as if you are without dignity! Where there is no work, there is no dignity! And this is not a problem solely in Sardinia … or only of Italy and certain countries in Europe, it is the consequence of a worldwide choice, an economic system that leads to this tragedy, an economic system that has at its centre the idol of money”.
“God did not want there to be an idol at the centre of the world, but rather that men and women bring the world ahead through their work. But now, in this system devoid of ethics, at the centre there is an idol, the world has become an idolater of this 'money-god'. Money commands! Cash commands! All that serves this idol commands. And what happens? To defend this idol, we pile up all our resources in the centre and the outer extremes fall by the wayside. The elderly fall, because in this world there is no place for them! Some speak of this habit of 'hidden euthanasia', of not caring for them, of not taking them into consideration. … And the young fall by the wayside too, as they cannot find work and dignity. This world has no future. Why? Because they have no dignity! It is difficult to have dignity without work”.
“This is your suffering, here. This is the prayer you call out: 'Work, work, work'. It is a necessary prayer. Work means dignity, work means bringing home bread, work means love! To defend this idolatrous system we have established a 'throwaway culture': we set aside our grandparents and set aside the young. And we must say 'no' to this throwaway culture'. We must say, 'We want a just system! A system that lets all of us move ahead!' We must say, 'We no longer want this globalised economic system, that does us so much harm!' Men and women should be at the centre, not money!”
“I had written a number of things to say to you, but, looking at you, these words came to me instead. … I preferred to say to you what came into my heart, looking at you in this moment! I know it is easy to say, never lose hope. But to all, to all of you, those who have a job and those of you who do not, I say, 'Do not allow your hope to be taken from you!' … Perhaps hope is like the smouldering embers below the ashes; let us help ourselves in solidarity, let us blow on the ashes to reignite the flames. Hope leads us on. That isn't optimism, it is something else. But hope is not for one person alone, hope is something we do together! We must keep hope alive together, all of you, and all of us, who are so far away. … So, I say to you: 'Do not be robbed of hope!'. But we must be clever, as the Lord says that the idols are more cunning than we are. The Lord invites us to have the cunning of the snake with the goodness of the dove. We must have this cunning, and call things by their proper name. In this moment, in our current economic system, in our proposed globalised system of life, there is an idol at the centre and this cannot be! Let us struggle together to restore to the centre, at least in our lives, men, women and the family, all of us, so that hope might live on'.
“I would like to finish by praying with all of you, in silence, in silence, praying with all of you. I will say what comes to my heart and, in silence, pray with me. Lord God, look at us! Look at this city, this island. Look at our families. Lord, you had work, you were a carpenter, and you were happy. Lord, we have no work. Idols try to rob us of our dignity. Unjust systems rob us of hope. Lord, do not leave us alone. Help us to help ourselves; so that we leave our selfishness behind and feel in our hearts the 'we' of a people who wish to forge ahead. Lord Jesus, who did not lack work, give us work and teach us how to strive for work, and bless us all”.