Pope Francis earned a rapturous reception on a visit to a struggling steel factory in northern Italy on Saturday as he denounced financial speculators and demanded dignity for working people.
“Without work for all there will not be dignity for all,” the pontiff told several thousand uniformed and hard-hatted workers at the ILVA plant in the northwestern city of Genoa.
“The progressive transformation of the entrepreneur into a speculator is an economic illness,” he said. “The speculator is the same as a mercenary who has no company and sees workers only as a means to make profits.”
The assembled gathering responded with applause and cries of “Francesco, Francesco” as the Argentine pope blasted the “faceless” nature of parts of today’s economy.
Taking questions from several of those gathered, including a chief executive officer and an unemployed woman, Francis praised the honor and dignity of “the good worker” and the good boss who would share the fruits of their respective labors.
He contrasted that with “speculators” who chase maximum profits at the expense of workers left on the scrapheap, while adding that there were “few greater joys than those experienced by working.”
Francis called high levels of joblessness among young people as “mortgaging the future” of a generation.
“Without work one can survive, but to live you need work,” he said.
At the same time, he criticized some sectors including the pornography and gambling industries.
Francis said he saw “democracy in crisis” in a working environment where many felt in thrall to a society that “sees only [the value of] consumption and does not understand the value of work and sweat.”
The heavily indebted ILVA Group was brought under Italian state control two years ago, then nationalized in an attempt to cut losses and prevent job losses.
Rome is now mulling selling ILVA to steel giant ArcelorMittal SA, owned by Indian billionaire Lakshmi Mittal.
Pope Francis’ own family originates from northern Italy. The Genoa region was where many Italians departed from as they emigrated to North and South America during the early 20th century.
At another event at the hilltop Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Guard overlooking the sea where thousands of young people gathered to hear him speak, the pontiff called on young people to overcome the attitude of superficial “tourists” who come only to take photographs and ignore the world around them.
He also warned them about the dangers of new technologies.
“Instead of informing you, they saturate you and your horizons shrink,” he said.
Francis added that young people should take the time for contemplation in order “to make proper judgments” instead of just “eating what is served up to them on a plate.”
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