“According to Christian tradition, (work) is more than a mere doing; it is, above all, a mission,” the Pope said Nov. 24.
“We collaborate with the creative work of God when, through our work, we cultivate and preserve creation; we participate, in the Spirit of Jesus, in his redemptive mission, when by our activity we give sustenance to our families and respond to the needs of our neighbor.”
Jesus of Nazareth, who spent most of his life working as a carpenter, “invites us to follow in his footsteps through work,” he continued. This way, in the words of St. Ambrose, “every worker is the hand of Christ who continues to create and to do good.”
Pope Francis sent the letter for the conclusion of a Nov. 23-24 international conference at the Vatican on work and worker’s movements, and how these are at the heart of sustainable and integral human development.
At the same time that we consider the value of work, the Pope stressed the importance of not exaggerating the “mystical” side of work, as observed by Pope Paul VI. The person “is not just work,” Francis said. “There are other human needs that we must cultivate and consider, such as family, friends, and rest.”
This is why, he stated, it is important to remember that work must always serve the human person, and not the other way around. Therefore, “we must question the structures that damage or exploit people, families, the companies and our mother earth,” he said.
In the letter, the Pope decried the utilitarian attitude faced by many workers, who in their struggle for just work, have been forced to accept the presence of a utilitarian mentality which does not care if there is excess waste, “social and environmental degradation,” forced child labor, or pollution.
“Everything is justified by the money god,” Francis said, noting however that many of the people who participated in the conference have contributed to the fight against utilitarianism in the past and are “well positioned to correct it in the future.”
“Please address this difficult subject and show us, according to your prophetic and creative mission, that a culture of encounter and care is possible,” he said.
Drawing a connection between the three topics of time, work and technology, the Pope criticized the constant intensification of a rapid pace of both work and life, saying it is unfavorable for sustainable development.
Technology as well, which we receive many benefits and opportunities from, can also hinder sustainable development when “it is associated with a paradigm of power, dominance, and manipulation,” he said.
To talk about development in a fruitful way, we must start from what we have in common, he said, which is: our origin, our belonging and our destination. “On this basis, we can renew the universal solidarity of all people, including solidarity with the people of tomorrow.”
“We will also be able to find a way out of a marketplace and monetary economy that does not give work the value it is due, and move it towards another in which human activity is the center.”