Pope's Address to Terni Pilgrimage Group

"Work Is a Fundamental Element of the Person and Society"

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 27, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday in Paul VI Hall upon receiving in audience participants of a pilgrimage from the Diocese of Terni-Narni-Amelia, Italy, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the 1981 visit of Pope John Paul II to Terni and its steel industry.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

I am very happy to receive you this morning and to offer my cordial greeting to the officials who are present, the workers and to all of you who have come as pilgrims to the See of Peter. A special greeting to Bishop Vincenzo Paglia, whom I thank for the words that he addressed to me also on your behalf. You have come in great numbers to this meeting -- I am sorry that not everyone was able to come inside -- on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of John Paul II's visit to Terni.

Today we would like to recall him in a special way for the love that he showed for the working world; we can almost hear him repeat the first words that he spoke shortly after he arrived at Terni: "The main reason for this visit, which takes place on St. Joseph's day … is to bring a word of encouragement to all the workers and express my solidarity with them, my friendship and my affection" (Speech to Officials in Terni, March 19, 1981). I make these sentiments my own and from my heart I embrace all of you and your families. On the day of my election, I also presented myself with conviction as a "humble worker in the Lord's vineyard," and today, together with you, I would like to remember all workers and entrust them to the protection of St. Joseph the Worker.

Terni is marked by the presence of one of the largest steel factories, which has contributed to the growth of a significant worker culture. A path with bright spots but also with difficult moments, like the one that we are experiencing today. The crisis of industrial stability is a harsh trial for the life of the city, which must rethink its future. In all of this your life as workers is also involved along with that of your families. In the words of your bishop I heard the echo of the worries that you carry in your heart.

I know that the diocesan church makes them her own and feels the responsibility of standing with you to communicate to you the hope of the Gospel and the strength to build a more just and worth society for man. And she does this beginning from the source, from the Eucharist. In his first pastoral letter, "The Eucharist Saves the World," your bishop indicated the source that you must draw from and return to in order to live the joy of the faith and have passion for improving the world. The Sunday Eucharist has thus become the fulcrum of the diocese's pastoral action. It is a decision that has born its fruits; participation in the Sunday Eucharist has increased, from which the diocese's commitment to your land takes its start.

From the Eucharist, in fact, in which Christ makes himself present in his supreme act of love for all of us, we learn to live in society as Christians, to make it more welcoming, more solidary, more attentive to the needs of everyone -- especially the weakest -- richer in love. St. Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr, defined Christians as those who "live according to Sunday" (iuxta dominicum viventes), that is, "according to the Eucharist." Living in a "eucharistic way" means living as one Body, one family, one society bound together by love. The exhortation to be "eucharistic" is not a mere moral invitation addressed to individuals, but it is much more: it is the exhortation to participate in Jesus' dynamism itself, Jesus who offers his life for others so that all might become one.

Within this context there is also situated the theme of work, which concerns you today, with its problems, especially unemployment. It is important always to remember that work is a fundamental element of the person and society. If it is difficult to find work, the conditions for society itself -- living according to the demands of the common good -- becomes threatened. In the encyclical "Caritas in Veritate," as Bishop Paglia recalled -- I said that we must not fail "to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone" (32).

I would also like to mention the grave problem of job safety. I know that you have had to face this tragic reality many times. We must make every effort to break the chain of deaths and accidents. And what can be said about dangers in the workplace above all with regard to young people? It is something that causes anxiety in many families! The bishop also touched on the difficult situation of the chemical industry in your town along with problems in the steelworks. I am especially near to you, putting in God's hands all of your anxieties and worries, and it is my wish that, in the logic of gratuitousness and solidarity, these problems will be overcome, so that you are assured of safe, dignified and stable work.

Work, my friends, helps us to be closer to God and to others. Jesus himself was a worker, indeed he spent most of his earthly life in Nazareth in Joseph's shop. The evangelist Matthew records that the people spoke of Jesus as the "carpenter's son" (Matthew 13:55) and John Paul II spoke in Terni of the "Gospel of Work," saying that it was "written above all by the fact that the Son of God, becoming man, worked with his own hands. In fact, his work, which was a physical work, occupied the majority of his life on this earth, and it thus entered into the work of his redemption of man and the world" (Speech to Workers in Terni, March 19, 1981).

Already this speaks to us of dignity of work, indeed of the specific dignity of human work that is inserted into the mystery itself of redemption. It is important to understand it in this Christian perspective. Often it is understood instead only as an instrument for gain if not, in various situations in the world, as a means of exploitation and so as an offense to the dignity itself of the human person. I would also like to note the problem of work on Sunday. Unfortunately, in our societies the rhythm of consumption threatens to steal away the meaning of feasts and of Sunday as the day of the Lord and of the community.

Dear workers, dear friends all, I would like to conclude these brief words of mine telling you that the Church supports, comforts, encourages direct effort to guarantee safe, dignified and stable work for everyone. The Pope is near to you and your families, your children, your young people, your elderly and he carries all of you in his hear before God. May the Lord bless you, your work and your future. Thank you.

[Translation by ZENIT]