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Pope Francis on Work and Workers

Topics: Current Events

Pope Francis is doing quite a bit of traveling in the Americas during the next few months, and he’ll be speaking on a variety of topics along the way. His popularity among both Catholics and non-Catholics in the U.S. is quite high, so the ideas he lays out tend to receive a good bit of coverage. Whatever your faith, it’s interesting to consider the ideas the pope has been busy presenting these last few years, particularly his ideas on the topic of work and workers. He’ll likely add to these discussions in the months to come. Let’s take a closer look.

pope francis

(Photo Credit: Alfredo Borba via Wikimedia Commons)

1. “…We get dignity from work.

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On the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker, the pope spoke about cultures that put the bottom line above the dignity, or even the life, of its workers.

“We do not get dignity from power or money or culture. We get dignity from work.” He added: “Work is fundamental to the dignity of the person. Work, to use an image, ‘anoints’ with dignity, fills us with dignity, makes us similar to God who has worked and still works, who always acts.”

He concluded these remarks with a “strong appeal” for societies to protect the dignity and safety of the worker.

2. Underpaying workers or avoiding taxes is a “grave sin.”

Pope Francis pulled no punches when he spoke directly to employers in a speech he delivered from the Vatican this past February. He made a point to mention that attending church, or donating to the church, does not make up for injustices against workers.

“Using God to cover injustice is a very grave sin,” he said. “If you go to Mass on Sunday and take communion, you should ask: What is the relationship with your employees? Do you pay them off the books? Do you pay them a fair salary? Do you pay the pension contributions?”

3. Workers should fight for social justice, including the freedom to unionize.

Saint John Paul II asserted the fundamental “priority of labor over capital” in 1981, and Pope Francis has had a lot to say on the same topic. He’s called on the faithful to fight for social benefits, including retirement, holidays, more time off, and the freedom to participate in trade unions. Under the heading of “social justice,” Pope Francis feels these benefits should be the norm for all workers, worldwide, and he encourages their pursuit.

4. More time off will make you happier.

In an interview last year with the Argentine weekly Viva, Pope Francis presented 10 tips for living a happier life. He harkened back to his ideas about dignified work, adding that we should be creative about helping teenagers find meaningful work in order to protect them from following a dangerous path.

He also asserted that time off is essential for happiness. He maintained that Sundays should be holidays and that workers should have Sundays off because “Sunday is for family.” He also commented on the importance of leisure time:

“Consumerism has brought us anxiety,” he said, adding that the stress causes people to lose a “healthy culture of leisure.” He emphasized that although parents work long hours, they should set aside time to play with their children. Even though work schedules make it “complicated, but you must do it.”

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What do you think of these remarks on work and workers? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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