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Pope says unemployed 'at risk of social exclusion'

Jobs not just for profit but for human dignity says Francis

20 March, 18:19
Pope says unemployed 'at risk of social exclusion' (By Sandra Cordon) (ANSA) - Vatican City, March 20 - The unemployed are at risk of social exclusion and an assault on their sense of human dignity, Pope Francis said Thursday during an audience with workers from a troubled steel mill in Terni, in the central Italian region of Umbria.

Employment does not just have "economic and profit ends," Francis added, but "affects human dignity" and its primary value lies in "the good of the human person".

Those who are "under-employed or unemployed risk becoming a victim of social exclusion," the pontiff told a delegation from the plant and other factories in the Umbrian city. Work is an essential need that "should be available to everyone," Francis added.

As many as 7,000 people gathered to hear the pope speak on the occasion of the 130th anniversary of the founding of Terni's steelworks, a major regional employer that is now at risk.

The situation dovetails with key themes of social justice, the responsibilities of capitalism, and the necessity of employment, which Francis has frequently raised since he became pope one year ago.

The pope has often criticized the ill effects of global capitalism and called on businesses to do more to create and maintain jobs.

He has warned that a form of "wild capitalism" has taken hold in some quarters, to the detriment of many individuals, especially the poor.

"A wild capitalism has taught the logic of profit at any cost, give to get, exploitation without looking at people, and the results we see in the crisis at hand," Francis said last May during continued economic recession in many parts of Europe and around the globe.

He has also blasted the way in which money had become an "idol" in the modern world and took a swipe at politicians and financiers who shun ethics in their bid to accumulate wealth and power.

He has called for reforms to make the world of finance and economics more focused on the needs of poor so they may live in dignity.

On Thursday, he returned to that message.

"We must reaffirm that work is essential for society, families and individuals," said the pope, who emphasized his message was aimed at workers the world over, not only in Umbria.

However, he also told the steelworkers, whose jobs are at risk, that they must not lose hope or stop fighting for better economic times.

"Never stop hoping in a better future, fighting for that," said the pope. "Don't get trapped by the vortex of pessimism.

"If everyone plays their part, if everyone always places the human person at the centre, with his can get out of the morass of a tough time for the economy and jobs," he said.

Francis said unemployment was a "grievous problem" that was affecting "several European countries" including Italy, where the jobless rate is 12.9% and youth unemployment 42.4% as the economy struggles out of its longest postwar recession. He said high joblessness "is the consequence of an economic system that is no longer able to create jobs, because it places in its center an idol which is called money".

The pope urged political, social and economic leaders to work together "to promote a different approach, based on justice and solidarity, to ensure everyone has the opportunity to perform work with dignity".