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No to ‘slave labour’

· Pontiff presides at Mass on 1 May ·

Man and his dignity come first. Pope Francis recalled this in his homily at morning Mass on Wednesday, 1 May, in the Chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae . Among those who participated were a group of children, adolescents and teenage mothers from the outreach centre “Il Ponte” in Civitavecchia, Italy. Also present were Fr Egidio Smacchia and Fr Sławomir Oder, Postulator of John Paul II's cause for canonization, with Michèle Smits, collaborator for the same cause. Bishop Luigi Marrucci of Civitavecchia-Tarquinia, among others, concelebrated.

The Pontiff dedicated his reflection to the theme of work on the Feast of St Joseph the Worker, taking cues from the readings of the day: The first from the Book of Genesis (1:26-2:3) and the second from the Gospel of Matthew (13:54-58). These readings speak of God the Creator “who worked to create the world” and the figure of St Joseph, the carpenter and “Jesus' adoptive father” and “from whom Jesus learned to work”.

Today, he said, “we bless St Joseph as a worker, but recalling St Joseph the Worker reminds us of God the Worker and Jesus the Worker. And the theme of work is very, very, very evangelical”.

“Even Jesus”, the Pope said, “worked a lot on earth, in St Joseph's workshop. He worked until the Cross. He did what the Father had commanded him to do. This makes me think of the many people today who work and have this dignity...Thanks be to God. We know that dignity does not give us power, money or culture. No! It is work that gives us dignity”, even if society does not allow for all to work.

The Pope then referred to the social, political and economic systems that in various places around  the world are based on exploitation. Thus, they chosse to “not pay the just” and to strive to make maximum profit at any cost, taking advantage of other's work without worrying the least bit about about their dignity”. This “goes against God!”, he exclaimed, referring to the dramatic situations which keep happening in the world, which we have also “read many times in L'Osservatore Romano ”. The Holy Father quoted the front page title from the newspaper on Sunday, 28 April, of an article about the garment factory collapse in Dhaka which killed hundreds of workers who were being exploited and who worked without the proper safety preoccupations. It is a title, he said, which struck me the day of the tragedy in Bangladesh: 'How to die for 38 euros a month'”. He explicitly denounced 'slave labour' which exploits “the most beautiful gift which God gave man: the ability to create,  work and to discover one's own dignity. How many of our brothers and sisters in the world are in this situation at the hands of these economic, social and political attitudes!”

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