Cagliari, Italy, Sep 22, 2013 / 08:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis spoke with a group of workers and the unemployed in his pastoral visit to the island of Sardinia today, encouraging them to remain hopeful in the face of a culture that values money over people.
“Don’t let your hope be stolen!” he exhorted the crowds gathered in the capitol city of Cagliari on Sept. 22. An economic system that “idolizes money” is based upon a “throw-away culture: the grandparents are thrown away, the young people are thrown away. And we must say ‘no’ to this throw-away culture,” said Pope Francis. “God has willed that at the center of the world there may not be an idol, but man: man and woman, who carry forward, with their own work, the world,” he said. The Pontiff departed from his prepared remarks, preferring to speak “from the heart” to those who had expressed their discouragement at a lack of available employment. “With this meeting I wish above all to express my closeness, especially to the situations of suffering: to the many unemployed young people, people on unemployment benefits or in unstable situations, to the entrepreneurs and business owners who are struggling to move forward.” Pope Francis recounted the story of his own family, personally affected in a similar way. His father had gone to Argentina as a young man with high hopes, but suffered in the terrible economic crisis of the 1930s. “They lost everything! There was no work!” the Pope exclaimed. Although this happened before he was born, the Holy Father said he grew up hearing about these times. “I heard about this suffering in my own home. I know it well.” Speaking frankly, he said that the lack of work makes people feel as if they “lack dignity.” His honesty moved the crowds who responded with shouts of agreement, some wiping tears from their cheeks. This phenomenon is not limited to Italy or other European countries, he said, but is the consequence of an economic system that idolizes money over the human person. “We must say, ‘we want a just system! A system that makes all of us move forward,’” he encouraged. “Man and woman must be at the center, as God wills, and not money.” It is hope that “carries us forward” even though “the idols want to steal our dignity” and “the unjust systems want to steal our hope.” “Let us strive together, for at the center, at least in our lives, there are man and woman, the family, all of us, because hope can carry us forward – don’t let your hope be stolen!” Pope Francis closed his remarks with a spontaneous prayer: “Lord Jesus, You who did not lack work, give us work and teach us to strive for work and bless us all.” His daylong visit to Sardinia will include Sunday Mass, a meeting with local bishops, and speeches to several different groups including the youth, prisoners, and representatives of the world of culture.