The dignity of workers was at the center of an address by Pope Francis on Saturday, during which the pontiff reflected on the connection between the right to employment and the right to leisure.
This “right to rest,” Pope Francis said, above all, refers to a “dimension of the human being which does not lack the spiritual roots and which, even you, for your part, are responsible.”
In a Nov. 7 audience in St. Peter's Square with employees of Italian National Social Security Institute the Holy Father acknowledged the organization's commitment to protect rights relating to work, which form the foundation of the “transcendent dignity” of human nature.
Leisure is not merely an “extension of fatigue and ordinary responsibilities, but an occasion to live one's own creatureliness, elevated to filial dignity by God himself,” he said.
He cited the Scripture account of creation, in which God calls man to rest on the seventh day, concluding that “rest, in the language of faith, is therefore at once a human and Divine dimension.”
Pope Francis stressed the Italian National Social Security Institute members' responsibility in promoting a true sense of rest. This is a particular challenge today owing to factors such as insufficient employment opportunities and lack of job security.
“And if we live like this, how can we rest?” the Pope asked.
“Rest is the right which we all have when he have work,” but this right is challenged in the face of unemployment, social injustice, and hazardous work.
Pope Francis underscored the importance of protecting the rights of women in the workplace as well. He added that it should be a priority to give particular attention to women workers, especially by offering support to mothers.
“Protect women, the work of women!” he said.
The Pope urged those present to guarantee there is insurance for the elderly, the sick, and those suffering misfortunes in connection to their work. He also called for the protection of the right to pensions.
Pope Francis went on to emphasize the importance of supporting the right to work, thereby “ensuring a dignified existence” for employees.
“Work, in fact, cannot be a mere cog in a perverse mechanism which grinds resources in order to make a profit,” nor can it be reduced simply to productivity at the expense of “values, relationships, and principles.”
The right to rest and the right to work are dependent on one another. “True rest comes from true work,” he said.
“Do not forget man: This is imperative. Love and serve men with conscience, responsibility, availability. Work for those who work, and not the least for those who wish to work, but cannot.”