ROME – In his monthly prayer video for October, Pope Francis focuses on the rights of workers and the unemployed, condemning situations that violate their dignity.
“We should always remember the dignity and rights of those who work, condemning situations in which that dignity and those rights are violated, and helping to ensure authentic progress by man and society,” the pontiff says in the video, which was released on Tuesday afternoon in Rome.
The pope’s words are actually a quote from a document by St. Pope John Paul II, his 1981 encyclical Laborem Exercens, which translates as “Through Work,” which the Polish pope wrote to mark the 90th anniversary of Rerum Novarum, an encyclical by Pope Leo XIII in 1891 considered the foundational text of modern Catholic social teaching.
Francis’s prayer intention is for all workers, so that they “may receive respect and protection of their rights, and that the unemployed may receive the opportunity to contribute to the common good.”
According to the International Labor Organization, several European countries face critical levels of unemployment, including Greece, where the jobless rate is currently at 23.9 percent and Spain, where it’s close to 20 percent. According to Istat, Italy’s official statistical agency, the country’s youth unemployment rate fell slightly in August but remains at 35.2 percent.
In Some African countries, the situation is even more dire, with overall unemployment rates reaching 29.69 percent in Gambia.
The Argentine pontiff has often referred to the high unemployment rates in Europe, and has spoken about the dignity of work 0n several occasions.
“I confirm an appeal to generate and accompany processes that can give rise to new opportunities for dignified work,” Francis said in June, during a visit to the Quirinale Palace to meet Italian President Sergio Mattarella. “Unease among youth, pockets of poverty, and the difficulties young people face in starting families and bringing children into the world, have their common denominator in the lack of sufficient job openings.”
Later that month, addressing the Italian Confederation of Union Workers, the pope said that work without respect for the person “becomes something inhuman,” while a person without work is incomplete.
People truly flourish when they have a job, “the most common form of cooperation that humanity has generated in its history,” the pope said.
“Work is a form of civil love: It is not a romantic love nor always intentional, but rather a true, authentic love, that makes us live and bring the world forward,” he said.
Since the beginning of his pontificate, Francis has also been a regular presence in the World Meeting of Popular Movements, that has gathered in Rome several times, and also in Bolivia, during the pope’s trip to this country.
Back in 2014, the pope addressed the group supporting their fight to the rights to “land, roof and work,” joking: “It’s odd, but for some, if I talk about these, it turns out the pope is a Communist.
“The fact that the love for the poor is in the center of the Gospel is misunderstood,” he said. “Those [values] for which you’re fighting for are sacred rights. It’s the Church’s social doctrine.”
The Pope Video is an initiative launched in January 2016. The monthly intentions are entrusted to the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, and the videos are produced by La Machi Communication for Good Causes with the support of the Jesuits, and the Vatican Television Center, among others.
The Apostleship of Prayer was founded by Jesuit seminarians in France in 1884 to encourage Christians to pray, particularly for the needs of the Church. Since the late 1800s, the organization has received a monthly, “universal” intention from the pope. In 1929, an additional missionary intention was added by Pope Pius XI, aimed at Catholics in particular.
As of January of this year, Francis has decided to have the universal intention set ahead of time, featured in the video, and then add a second throughout the month, based on an urgent or immediate need.