Youth unemployment is “a true social plague” that leaves young people feeling useless, Pope Francis told an Italian labor group on Saturday. “The human being is the center of development, and as long as men and women remain passive or marginalized, the common good cannot be considered fully met,” the Pope told members of the Italian National Federation of the Knights of Labor at the Apostolic Palace in a June 20 audience. The pontiff said the world of work should be ready and waiting for young people and the fresh strengths they bring. However, in recent years young people have received the message that “there is no need of them.” “This is a symptom of a grave dysfunction, which cannot be attributed only to global and international causes,” he said. Italy’s official overall unemployment rate is above 12 percent. Its youth unemployment is about 40 percent, according to European Union figures. Pope Francis reflected on the social significance of work, noting its ability to engage people and give them responsibility in a way that simulates enterprise, creativity and diligence “This has positive effects on new generations and ensures that a society begins again to look ahead, offering prospects and opportunities, and thus hope for the future,” he said. The Pope said that the common good cannot be achieved merely through increasing earnings and productivity. Rather, it requires “the active involvement of all the parties that make up the body of society.” The economy contributes to authentic development only when “rooted in justice and respect for the law,” when it does not marginalize individuals and peoples, when it avoids corruption, and when it does not neglect to preserve the natural environment. Justice requires not only abstaining from wickedness and observing the laws, the Pope said, though he granted that doing this is “already a lot.” Rather, the just man acts with “conscience and concern for the good of all, not only for their own.” A just person “takes to heart the fate of the less advantaged and of the poor” and “never tires of work” while being ready to discover new paths. Pope Francis particularly praised this kind of creativity. The Pope also praised the Knights of Labor’s work to help create jobs and increase the value of Italian products. He said their work is “more valuable than ever” given Italy’s economic stagnation and recession and a social situation “already marked by inequality and unemployment.”
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