Pope Francis Calls for Increased Safety for Workers saying "Last year the deaths at work were many, too many" and He Invokes Support of St. Joseph



Sala Clementina - Thursday, 20 January 2022

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning and welcome!

I thank the President for his words of greeting. I welcome you on the occasion of your 75th anniversary, celebrated in recent months; an opportunity to remember a story that goes back to the second post-war period in Italy. The National Association of Building Constructors was born, in fact, in 1946 as an entrepreneurial association representing Italian companies of any size operating in the construction field.

I think this is a difficult period for your sector as well. And in these moments it is important to draw on the motivations, the founding choices. For my part, I would like to share with you some teachings of the gospel that can help you in your work. It is a Christian reading of the values ​​that inspire you: competition and transparency; responsibility and sustainability; ethics, legality and safety.

The Gospel testifies that Jesus, in his preaching, also used the metaphor of construction to convey his messages. This is the case, for example, of chapter 6 of the Gospel of Luke (vv. 46-49), where, among other things, Jesus unmasks the hypocritical and lazy behavior of those who limit themselves only to speaking without doing. Showing the wisdom of the construction engineer, he likens charlatans to those who build houses on sandy, foundationless ground. Of course, Jesus does not think of large buildings, but he nevertheless points out that these constructions are made on the banks of the river, while the good builder knows that at the first flood such a house is destined to be swept away.

His parable, however, continues with the reverse of the coin: "Whoever comes to me and listens to my words and puts them into practice, [...] is like a man who, building a house, dug very deep and laid the foundations on the rock "(vv. 47-48). The picture is even more interesting when we think that such a builder not only did the right thing in the present moment, but defended the house from possible future floods. One might say: but it never happened! Yes, but it could happen. That's what we are seeing today with climate change: things happen that never happened.

In Jesus' preaching, the believer is one who does not limit himself to appearing outwardly Christian, but works effectively as a Christian. And it is precisely this "operational coherence" that allows him to build himself not only in the normal times of life, but to remain so even in difficult moments. This also means that faith does not protect us from the elements, however, accompanied by good works, it strengthens us and enables us to resist it. And it is precisely in this sense that it is necessary to safeguard and embody the values ​​that inspire your membership in the Association on a daily basis.

Competition and transparency. Competition alone is not enough. In the utilitarian logic of the market it can lead to opposition to the point of eliminating the other. He deceives that one can win over the other or that the defeat of the other is to be taken into account in the economic trend. When this happens, the social fabric of trust that allows the market itself to function properly is jeopardized. Competition must be an incentive to do better and good, not the will to dominate and exclude. This is why transparency in decision-making processes and economic choices is fundamental. Competition and transparency, together. It allows you to avoid unfair competition, which in the economic and employment field often means loss of jobs, support for undeclared work or low-paid work. Thus we end up favoring forms of corruption that feed on the turmoil of illegality and injustice. And this is not a right path: it is a path that is sick, it is not good.

Responsibility and sustainability. Never before have we heard about sustainability as in this time: it calls into question the regeneration capacity of each ecosystem. In the construction sector, the use of materials that offer safety to people is essential. At the same time, we must avoid exploiting the environment by cooperating to make some particularly exploited territories unlivable. Each company can offer its own responsible contribution so that the work is sustainable.

Furthermore, sustainability has to do with the beauty of places and the quality of relationships. Here I would like to take up a reflection present in the encyclical Laudato si '  on the relationship between urban spaces and human behavior: "Those who design buildings, neighborhoods, public spaces and cities need the contribution of different disciplines that make it possible to understand processes, the symbolism and behavior of people. The search for beauty in the project is not enough, because it has even more value to serve another type of beauty: the quality of life of people, their harmony with the environment, meeting and mutual help. This is also why it is so important that the point of view of the locals always contributes to the analysis of urban planning "(n. 150 ). May your work help communities to strengthen bonds of solidarity, cooperation and mutual aid.

Ethics, legality and safetyLast year the deaths at work were many, too many. They are not numbers, they are people. Construction sites have also known tragedies that we cannot ignore. Unfortunately, if you look at workplace safety as a cost, you are starting from a wrong assumption. The real wealth is the people. I am reminded of what happened in the construction of the Tower of Babel. At that time, bricks were difficult to make, because they had to take straw, grass, then make the mass, bake, a huge job. A brick was, I'm not saying a fortune, but it cost. If a brick fell in the construction of the tower, it was a tragedy, and the worker who had been responsible was punished. On the other hand, if a worker fell, nothing happened. This must make us think! The real wealth is the people: without them there is no working community, there is no business, there is no economy. The safety of the workplace means custody of human resources, which are invaluable in the eyes of God and also in the eyes of the true entrepreneur. For this reason, legality must be seen as the protection of the highest assets that are people. Working safely allows everyone to express the best of themselves by earning their daily bread. The more we take care of the dignity of work, the more we are certain that the quality and beauty of the works created will increase. Working safely allows everyone to express the best of themselves by earning their daily bread. The more we take care of the dignity of work, the more we are certain that the quality and beauty of the works created will increase. Working safely allows everyone to express the best of themselves by earning their daily bread. The more we take care of the dignity of work, the more we are certain that the quality and beauty of the works created will increase.

May St. Joseph, patron saint of workers, support you in your commitment. I too accompany you with my prayer and my blessing. And I ask you to carry on what the President said: to pray for me. Thank you.

 FULL TEXT Source: Vatican.va + Image Screenshot