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Social Week: The Italian Church and employment. Bishop Santoro: “enough with pointless complaints, it’s time for good practices”

Before the difficult situation affecting Italy’s job sector, the Italian Church has decided to focus the next Social Week on the theme: “The job we want. Free, creative, participatory and mutually-supportive labour.” For the President of the organizing and scientific committee, Monsignor Filippo Santoro, "it’s time to acknowledge the need for a form of occupational mobility which we have not been accustomed to, whilst bearing in mind that labour isn’t only a means of subsistence but the condition enabling self-achievement.” A symbolic initiative is being planned for Christian communities involving concrete forms of solidarity towards the unemployed.

A double-digit unemployment rate – 11.4% – that reaches 38.8% in the 15-24 age bracket. Widespread precariousness, unreported and underpaid employment, underpaid recruitment of farm labor, the black hole of Southern Italy. The situation rose the concerns of the Italian Church whose bishops have decided to dedicate the next Social Weeks of Italian Catholics – scheduled to take place in Cagliari October 26-29 2017 – to the theme: “The job we want. Free, creative, participatory and mutually-supportive labour.” The Scientific and Organizing Committee is headed by Monsignor Filippo Santoro, bishop of Taranto: a city deeply marked by unemployment and job-security related issues.

What answer can the Church give to families that strive to make ends meet; to young people who stopped dreaming about their future since they lost their jobs; to the poor – whose chances of changing their living conditions are declining day after day?
The answer is always proximity, namely, authentic, concrete closeness. The Church cannot fill the labour gap. However, she stirs what is good to ensure that families are granted the conditions to lead a dignified and serene life.

A family without means of sustenance, without a job, is doubly poor. It is part of the Church’s vocation to be near the poor, not only to provide support, but to overcome poverty.

The Church doesn’t argue the issues at stake. Her action is not confined to sociological reflections. In fact, the Church is a community of families, of youths, who not only dream of a better future, but have a right to it!

Your Excellency, what is meant by “free, creative, participatory and mutually-supportive labour”?
If the focus is solely on money or on the so-called ‘law of the market’, human dignity will be increasingly less considered, owing to a want of sharing. The global economic system – as Pope Francis has denounced on various occasions – by following the interests of financial and production giants fails to ensure the inclusion of the poor. As for free, creative, participatory and mutually supportive labour (Evangelii Gaudium 192), we also want to reflect on the need to reconsider labour especially in terms of stability, as it was understood until today. It is necessary to acknowledge the present form of occupational mobility which we have not been accustomed to, whilst bearing in mind that labour isn’t only a means of subsistence but a condition enabling self-achievement, maturity, self-expression, enriching society through individual talents.

Does the impoverishment of the middle-class risk jeopardizing the social and democratic fabric of the Country?
It does. Despite feeble signs of recovery it can be said that this risk does exist. Poverty triggers chain reactions, creating various situations of social emergency. In the Country’s large urban centres the middle-class is hard to identify because the gap between the rich and poor has been further increasing, clearly affecting democratic solidity.

Why is it so important to focus on business ethics?
Everything starts with ethics, with the goals of a given company. If profit is the sole criteria, it will inevitably bring detriment to the care of the human person. Pope Francis has called for a new humanism of work. It might seem a generic and pretentious ethical proposal until the humanism of work is compared

with all the inhuman aspects of labour such as lack of social security benefits, precariousness, poor services and unrecognized rights to employed women, along with – based on situations I have witnessed in first person – exposing workers to serious health risks owing to lack of safety requirements and exposure to pollutants.

When speaking of the humanism of work it is necessary to start with these principles. Christian ethics ascribe primary importance to integral human development. Indeed, problems related to fiscal issues and high taxes imposed on Italian companies are duly considered, along with the question of legal and illegal work.

The goals of the Week include the identification of proposals aimed at job-creation at national level.
During the Week special attention will be given to all aspects of employment, in its concrete expression, starting with personal experiences.

Whilst not renouncing denunciations, there will be no lingering in pointless complaints.

Examples of good practices in Italy and abroad will be given special relevance: a collection of good practices in companies, at local and institutional level, that can be further circulated. Such good practices have been fruitful, involving various social and community players, at national and international level alike. Naturally the program of the Week will equally delve into the value of work at the service of the truth: the many possibilities for self-accomplishment are sadly accompanied by different forms of exploitation, black labor, inequality, and, most of all, by high levels of unemployment, especially in Southern Italy.

Will the structure of the Social Week be reconsidered, providing a follow-up to the outcomes of the meeting, thereby paving the way to further projects?
Without a doubt. All the members of the Committee agree that purely academic meetings belong to the past. They propose participatory and synodal forms of sharing that have been characterizing the preparations of the Week, giving priority to listening and to concrete job experiences, along with the theme of unemployment and the ongoing transformations in this sector.

The Committee is equally working on the definition of an initiative of high symbolical value for Christian communities consisting in concrete acts of solidarity towards the unemployed


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