Francis at the meeting with the world of labour in Ciudad Juarez.
“The prevailing mentality advocates for the greatest possible profits, immediately and at any cost” but “God will hold us accountable for the slaves of our day”. Today Pope Francis met representatives of the world of labour, businessmen and trade unionists, in Ciudad Juarez. 3,000 people turned up at the Colegio de Bachilleres, in the State of Chihuahua, to listen to him.
After listening to people’s testimonies and questions, the Pope said: “Anything we can do to foster dialogue, encounter, and the search for better alternatives and opportunities is already an accomplishment to be valued and highlighted. Obviously more needs to be done, and today we do not have the luxury of missing any chance to encounter, discuss, confront or search. This is the only way we will be able to build for tomorrow.”
Speaking about the “various workers’ organizations and representatives of Commerce Chambers and business associations,” Francis observed: “At first sight they could be considered as adversaries, but they are united by the same responsibility: seeking to create employment opportunities which are dignified and truly beneficial for society and especially for the young of this land.”
“One of the greatest scourges for young people,” he continued, is the lack of opportunities for study and for sustainable and profitable work, which would permit them to work for the future. In many cases, this lack of opportunity leads to situations of poverty. This poverty then becomes the best breeding ground for the young to fall into the cycle of drug trafficking and violence. It is a luxury which no one can afford; we cannot allow the present and future of Mexico to be alone and abandoned.”
“Unfortunately,” Francis went on to say, “the times we live in have imposed the paradigm of economic utility as the starting point for personal relationships. The prevailing mentality advocates for the greatest possible profits, immediately and at any cost. This not only causes the ethical dimension of business to be lost, but it also forgets that the best investment we can make is in people, in individual persons and in families. The best investment is creating opportunities.”
“The prevailing mentality puts the flow of people at the service of the flow of capital, resulting in many cases in the exploitation of employees as if they were objects to be used and discarded. God will hold us accountable for the slaves of our day, and we must do everything to make sure that these situations do not happen again. The flow of capital cannot decide the flow and life of people.”
Francis then responded to some criticisms that are often directed at the Church’s social Doctrine. He said: “It is objected frequently: “These teachings would have us be charitable organizations or that we transform our businesses into philanthropic institutions”. “The only aspiration of the Church’s Social Doctrine,” the Pope pointed out, “is to guard over the integrity of people and social structures. Every time that, for whatever reason, this integrity is threatened or reduced to a consumer good, the Church’s Social Doctrine will be a prophetic voice to protect us all from being lost in the seductive sea of ambition. Every time that a person’s integrity is violated, society, in a certain sense, begins to decline. This is against no one, but in favour of all.”
“Every sector,” Francis added, “has the obligation of looking out for the good of all; we are all in the same boat. We all have to struggle to make sure that work is a humanizing moment which looks to the future; that it is a space for building up society and each person’s participation in it.”
“What kind of world do we want to leave our children?” Francis asked. “I believe that the vast majority of us can agree. This is precisely our horizon, our goal, and we have to come together and work for this. It is always good to think about what I would like to leave my children; it is also a good way to think of others’ children. What kind of Mexico do you want to leave your children? Do you want to leave them the memory of exploitation, of insufficient pay, of workplace harassment? Or do you want to leave them a culture which recalls dignified work, a proper roof, and land to be worked? What type of culture do we want for those who will come after us? What air will they breathe? An air tainted by corruption, violence, insecurity and suspicion, or, on the contrary, an air capable of generating alternatives, renewal and change?”
The Pope admitted: “I know that the issues raised are not easy, but it is worse to leave the future in the hands of corruption, brutality and the lack of equity. I know it is often not easy to bring all parties together in negotiations, but it is worse, and we end up doing more harm, when there is a lack of negotiations and appreciation. I know it is not easy to get along in an increasingly competitive world, but it is worse to allow the competitive world to ruin the destiny of the people. Profit and capital are not a good over and above the human person; they are at the service of the common good. When the common good is used only in the service of profit and capital, the only thing gained is known as exclusion.” Francis recalled something a friend of his, an eldelrly trade unionist, once told him: “Every time I sat down at a negotiating table, I knew I had to lose something so that all of us could gain something. Great work philosophy! When you negotiate, you always lose something but everyone gains something.”