Pope Francis on Monday met with an Italian initiative aimed at offering support to unemployed and underemployed youth, saying their responsibility is to help young people rediscover the “vocation” of work in the context of their human dignity. The task at hand is to help young people find, not just a job, but “a responsibility of evangelisation through the sanctifying value of work,” the Pope said during the Dec. 14 audience with members of the Policoro Project. However, this does not apply to “any form of work: not work that exploits, crushes, humiliates and abuses, but work that makes man truly free, in accordance with his noble dignity”. “The vocation to work: that is one of the traits of human dignity,” the Roman Pontiff said. “There is no vocation to laziness, but to work.” He added that this sense of commitment to work goes beyond monetary gains: it is for the “edification of the world, of society, and of life.” Sponsored by the Bishops' Conference of Italy, the Policoro Project began twenty years ago; it aims to support young people in Italy experiencing unemployment and underemployment. Pope Francis met with the Policoro Project at the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, lauding the work of the initiative, which has spread nationally. “Its key ideas have guided its success: the formation of the young, the establishment of cooperatives, the creation of mediation figures such as 'community animators' and a long series of concrete gestures, a visible sign of commitment throughout these twenty years of active presence.” The Pope said work which allows for freedom, creativity, participation and mutual support helps workers “express and enhance” their dignity. “Let us not lose sight of the urgency of reaffirming this dignity! It belongs to each and every one of us. .. When there is no work, dignity is at risk, as unemployment not only prevents you from putting food on the table; it also makes you feel unworthy of earning a living.” The Roman Pontiff observed how young people today have fallen victim to unemployment, not only affecting their ability to sustain themselves, but also promoting feelings of unworthiness. “How many of them have given up looking for work, resigned to continual rejection or the indifference of a society that rewards only the usual privileged few — even if they are corrupt — and obstructs those who deserve affirmation.” “The reward seems to go to those who are sure of themselves, even if this security is gained through corruption. Work is not a gift to be kindly granted to the select few: it is a right for all!” Pope Francis lauded the Policoro Project for representing a “sign of real hope for many people who have not resigned themselves but have instead decided to commit themselves courageously to creating or improving their opportunities for work.” “Continue to promote initiatives for participation for young people in a community and participatory form,” he encouraged them. “To the question, 'what has the Church to do with my situation?', that you have said and heard many times, the answer is 'witness'. And here you are able to provide your witness, face to face with those who are in need of courage and support.”
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