Papal Address to Italian Agricultural Organization

"The Church is never indifferent to the quality of people's lives, to their working conditions"

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 22, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today when he received in audience members of the Italian agricultural organization "Coldiretti," which is celebrating its national conference on the theme "Family agriculture for sustainable development."

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, I am happy to receive you on the occasion of your congress, which has as its theme: “Family Agriculture for Sustainable Development.” This meeting gives me the opportunity to express to the National Confederation of Agricultural Owner-Occupiers (Coldiretti) my appreciation for its commitment in favor of families who live and work in the Italian countryside. I greet you all with affection beginning with the national president, Dr. Sergio Marini, whom I thank for the words with which he made himself spokesman of your sentiments. I greet, then, the national ecclesiastical adviser, the National Council and the other directors of your meritorious Confederation.

Society, the economy <and> work do not only represent secular environments, much less so one foreign to the Christian message, but are places to fecund with the spiritual wealth of the Gospel. The Church, in fact, is never indifferent to the quality of people’s lives, to their working conditions, and she sees the need to take care of man and the contexts in which he lives and produces, so that they will always be genuine human and humanizing places. To this end, the Servant of God Paul VI observed that “the Church has always given special attention to the people of the countryside, opening the way to their human and moral elevation and helping them to fulfill their mission with dignity and awareness of its spiritual and social value” (Address to Direct Cultivators, April 19, 1972).

In her solicitude, the Church is also very happy to involve the various aggregations, such as yours, which inspire their action in the principles of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Through it, in fact, the Church “makes the message of the freedom and redemption wrought by Christ, the Gospel of the Kingdom, present in human history; … bears witness to man, in the name of Christ, to his dignity and vocation to the communion of persons. She teaches him the demands of justice and peace, in conformity with divine wisdom” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 63).

In fact in the Coldiretti, Catholic teaching on social ethics has had one of its most fertile “laborers,” thanks to the intuition and farsighted wisdom of its founder Paolo Bonomi, who worked in the light of the Gospel of charity and in the wake of the Social Teaching of the Church. He was a person who was very attentive to the promotion of farmers, able to offer them clear guidelines and criteria, which remain essentially valid in our days. Be worthy inheritors of such an ideal rich patrimony! It is up to you, today, to remain faithful to the values acquired, to engage in courageous dialogue with the changing conditions of society. Requested of you, moreover, is a new awareness and a further effort of responsibility in meetings with the agricultural world. You must all feel involved in this mission. Each one must be committed in the role he covers, to support the legitimate interests of the categories he represents, working always with patience and farsightedness, for the purpose of valuing the most noble and qualifying aspects of the human person, the sense of duty, the ability to share and sacrifice, solidarity, observance of the just needs of rest and corporal and even more so, spiritual regeneration.

I know well how much you have at heart to continue in your service of evangelical witness in the agricultural and fishing environment, highlighting those values which make of labor activity a precious instrument for the realization of a more just and human coexistence. I am thinking of respect of the dignity of the person, the search for the common good, honesty and transparency in the management of services, food security and the protection of the environment and the landscape, the promotion of the spirit of solidarity. I encourage you to continue in this work, you yourselves becoming increasingly the ferment of good life, salt of the earth and light of the world (cf. Matthew 5:13-14).

The enduring economic-financial crisis, with the consequent unknowns, puts agricultural and fishing entrepreneurs before unheard and certainly difficult challenges, which you are called to address as Christians, cultivating a renewed and profound sense of responsibility, giving proof of solidarity and sharing. Considering, then, that at the base of the present economic difficulty there is a moral crisis, do your utmost with solicitude so that ethical urgencies maintain the primacy over every other exigency. In fact, the remedy must be taken where the root of the crisis is, fostering the rediscovery of those spiritual values from which ideas, projects and works then spring. As I reminded in the encyclical Caritas in Veritate, “we must adopt a realistic attitude as we take up with confidence and hope the new responsibilities to which we are called by the prospect of a world in need of profound cultural renewal, a world that needs to rediscover fundamental values on which to build a better future” (n. 21). On this ethical terrain, it is for the family, the school, the labor union and every other political, cultural and civic institution to carry out an important endeavor of collaboration and connection, of stimulation and promotion, above all in regard to young people. They are charged with objectives and hopes, they seek with generosity to build their future and expect from adults valid examples and serious proposals. We cannot disappoint their expectations!

Dear friends, may your solicitude be to do your utmost not only so that agricultural enterprises and direct cultivators are opportunely protected, but also so that valid social policies are carried out in favor of the person and his professionalism, considering especially the crucial role of the family for the whole society. I encourage you to persevere in your educational and social work, carrying forward with generosity your projects of solidarity, particularly in dealing with the weakest and less guaranteed. Through your social action you witness the novelty of the Gospel, and because of this you are in need of a constant reference to Christ, in prayer, to obtain the necessary spiritual energy to give new vigor to your commitment. From my side, I manifest to you the affection and support of the Church and, while I entrust to the Lord the daily joys and toil of all those who work in the agricultural and fishing sector, I impart from my heart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, to your families, and to all the members.

[Translation by ZENIT]