“I find suffering here … It weakens you and robs you of hope,” he said. “Excuse me if I use strong words, but where there is no work there is no dignity.”
The Pope discarded his prepared speech after listening to Francesco Mattana, a 45-year-old married father of three who lost his job with an alternative energy company four years ago.
His voice trembling, he told the Pope that unemployment “oppresses you and wears you out to the depths of your soul”.
The crowd of about 20,000 people in a square near the city port chanted what Francis called a prayer for “work, work, work”.
Francis, who later celebrated Mass for some 300,000 people outside the city’s cathedral, told them: “We don’t want this globalised economic system which does us so much harm. Men and women have to be at the centre [of an economic system] as God wants, not money.”
“The world has become an idolator of this god called money,” he said, making clear that his assessment was not limited to just Sardinia.
“It is not a problem of Italy and Europe… It is the consequence of a world choice, of an economic system that brings about this tragedy, an economic system that has at its centre an idol which is called money.”
While Benedict, Francis’s predecessor, also called for changes to economic systems, he was more likely to use intellectual language.
Francis ended his speech with a prayer asking God to “give us work and teach us to fight for work”. He said he did not want the crowd to see him as a smiling “cordial manager of the Church who comes here and says to you ‘have courage’.”
Francis brought tears to the eyes of some in the crowd when he told his own family’s story of emigration from Italy to Argentina and how they lost everything in the Great Depression.
“I was not born yet, but as a child I remember hearing talk of this suffering.”
He said globalisation had brought with it a culture where the weakest in society suffered the most and often, those on the fringes “fall away”, including the elderly, who he said were victims of a “hidden euthanasia” caused by neglect of those no longer considered productive.
“To defend this economic culture, a throwaway culture has been installed. We throw away grandparents, and we throw away young people. We have to say no to his throwaway culture. We want a just system that helps everyone,” he said.