Pope Francis said Wednesday that work is something sacred, and called out those who abuse it by either contributing to the unemployment crisis, or refusing to work in order to feed off the system. “Work is precisely from the human being. It expresses his dignity of being created in the image of God. Therefore it is said that work is sacred,” the Pope said Aug. 19. Because of this, he added, managing employment “is a great human and social responsibility which can't be left in the hands of the few, or discharged to a divinized market.” The Pope spoke to pilgrims present in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall for his Wednesday general audience. His comments are part of his continued series of catechesis on the family. After announcing last week that he would shift his focus to the different rhythms of family life, such as celebration, work and prayer, Francis today turned to the topic of work. “Through work, the family is cared for and children are provided with a dignified life. So too the common good is served, as witnessed by the example of so many fathers and mothers who teach their children the value of work for family life and society,” he said. Francis noted how in the bible the Holy Family appears as a family of workers, and Jesus himself was referred to as “the son of a carpenter” and even “the carpenter.” He criticized the lifestyle of those who refuse to work, choosing instead to live off others. Even St. Paul, in his second letter to the Thessalonians, doesn't hesitate to admonish the Christians who espouse this attitude when he tells them that “whoever doesn't want to work, doesn't eat,” Francis observed. Although this might be “a nice recipe to lose weight,” what St. Paul refers to is the “false spiritualism of some who live off the backs of their brothers and sisters without doing anything,” the Pope said. However, on the other hand he said that because work is something sacred, managing it within civil society is a major responsibility, and “to cause a loss of jobs is to cause a serious social harm.” The Pope told attendees that he is always sad when he sees a person who lacks work and the dignity of bringing bread home to their family. But “it gives me joy when I see that the governments make a lot of effort to find places of work and ensure that everyone has work,” he said, and encouraged those present to pray that no family suffer from unemployment. Francis cautioned against placing the management of employment “at the mercy a logic of profit or a deified market.” Modern organizations at times have the “dangerous tendency” to consider the family as a burden or a liability for productivity, he said, and questioned what is being produced and for whom. He pointed to the “so-called 'smart-cities'” who, although they boast of having a wide variety of different services and organizations, are frequently hostile to children and the elderly at the same time. The family “is a great testing ground,” he said. When work organizations take the family “hostage, even obstructing their path, then we are sure that human society has begun to work against itself!” As a result civil life and the natural environment also end up corrupted, he said. This “contamination of the soul affects everything: even the air, water, grass and food.” He quoted the Book of Genesis, recalling how when God made the heavens and the earth “not a plant of the field was on the land, no herb of the field had yet sprung up — the Lord God had not sent the rain on the earth and no one had tilled the soil and made rise the water of the canals for irrigation.” Man's role in caring for creation “isn't romanticism, it's God's revelation,” the Pope said, adding that man has the responsibility to both understand creation and cultivate it fully. Francis then referred to the integral ecology proposed in his recent encyclical on the environment “Laudato Si,” which he said offers the message that “the beauty of the earth and the dignity of work are made to be joined.” “The land becomes beautiful when it is worked by man. They go together,” he said. Pope Francis then turned to the balance between work and spiritual life. He said that the two are not opposed, but rather go hand in hand, since work expresses the dignity of the human person, created in God’s image. “Prayer and work can and should go together in harmony...the lack of work also damages the spirit, just as the lack of prayer damages every practical activity.” However, when work deviates from God's covenant with man and fails to respect his spiritual qualities, the Pope said, it becomes “a hostage of the profit-only logic” and despises life's affections, producing negative consequences that hit families and the poor particularly hard. Part of the challenging mission God has given to Christian families is to present the basic elements the creation of man was founded on, Francis continued. Among these foundations, he said, are a true understanding of “the identity of man and woman and the bond they share, their call to bring children into the world, and the gift of work in making the world ever more fruitful and hospitable.” “The loss of these fundamental elements is a very serious matter, and in the common home there are already too many cracks!” he said, explaining that the task of promoting these truths isn’t easy. Pope Francis concluded his address by asking Mary to intercede for all families, particularly those who suffering due to unemployment and the current economic crisis, and that she help them to fulfill their mission in the Church and in the world. “May Jesus Christ strengthen you and your families in faith, so that you may be a sign to the world of his love and mercy,” he prayed.
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