Injustice at work, in Church should be addressed, pope says

February 8, 2022

Religious women hold candles as Pope Francis celebrates Mass marking the feast of the Presentation of the Lord at the Vatican in this Feb. 2, 2017, file photo. In a video message released by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network Feb. 1, Pope Francis offered his prayer intention for the month of February, which he dedicated to religious and consecrated women. (CNS Photo)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis addressed job safety, injustice, and encouraged religious sisters and consecrated women to continue to show courage amid difficulties.

The pandemic should not be used as an excuse for doing nothing about improving job safety and repairing injustice, Pope Francis said.

The pandemic has worsened the situation of many workers and families, he said, “but the pandemic cannot and must not become an alibi to justify omissions in justice or safety.”

“On the contrary, the crisis can be faced as an opportunity to grow together in solidarity and in the quality of work,” he said on Jan. 29 in an audience with members of the Italian Leather Chemists Association.

Members work in the tanning sector, chemical and dye manufacturing and related fields for the leather industry.

The pope, who earned a specialized high school diploma as a chemical technician and worked briefly in a food science lab, recognized their role in applying modern technical and scientific knowledge to “an artisan activity that has an ancient tradition.”

He encouraged them to address a critical issue in their industry, which is the environmental impact of the manufacture and use of chemicals to tan, dye and treat leather that then “becomes bags, shoes and so on — so many things we use every day, and we don’t think about the work there is behind it!”

They, too, are called to help in the care of creation, including in the way they work, he said.

Coming together as an association is valuable because they can share needed knowledge, experience, as well as the latest in legal requirements and technical advancements, he said.

“Thus, we help each other to grow together in a style of social and ecological responsibility. And this is very important! Today we are more aware of our ecological responsibility,” which is a good thing, he said.

Pope Francis told the leatherworkers he hoped St. Joseph would serve as an example to “help you not to give in to discouragement, to creatively enhance your talents and your great experience to move forward and forge new ways.”

In a video message released by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network on Feb. 1, the pope offered his prayer intention for the month of February, which he dedicated to religious and consecrated women. He encouraged religious sisters and consecrated women to fight against injustice, even if it means pushing back against the church they serve faithfully.

“I invite them to fight when, in some cases, they are treated unfairly, even within the Church; when they serve so much that they are reduced to servitude, at times, by men of the Church,” the pope said.

At the start of each month, the network posts a short video of Pope Francis offering his specific prayer intention.

“Let us pray for religious sisters and consecrated women, thanking them for their mission and their courage; may they continue to find new responses to the challenges of our times,” he said. 

In his video message, the pope said that without the presence of religious and consecrated women, the Church “cannot be understood,” and he called on them “to discern and choose what is best for their mission in the face of the world’s challenges that we’re experiencing.”

“I exhort them to keep working and to have an impact with the poor, with the marginalized, with all those who are enslaved by traffickers; I especially ask them to make an impact on this,” he said.

Pope Francis prayed that religious and consecrated women would continue “to show the beauty of God’s love and compassion” not only through their work, “but above all through your witness of consecration.”

“Thank you for what you are, for what you do, and for how you do it,” the pope said.