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Pope Francis Rails Against Sweat Shops and Unemployment in May Day Message

Image: Pope Francis Rails Against Sweat Shops and Unemployment in May Day Message Pope Francis leaves after his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on May 1.

Wednesday, 01 May 2013 12:08 PM

By Edward Pentin

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A society that fails to pay a fair wage or one that seeks only personal profit is unjust and goes against God, Pope Francis said in a May Day message Wednesday.

Addressing pilgrims during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, the pontiff said work is fundamental for dignity — it gives man "a special dignity, a personal dignity," and men and women who work “are dignified.”

But he noted many who want to work cannot, and many more who do work are exploited.

“Not paying fairly, not giving a job because you are only looking at balance sheets, only looking at how to make a profit — that goes against God,” he said.

“This is a burden on our conscience, because when society is organized in such a way that not everyone has the opportunity to work, to be anointed with the dignity of work, then there is something wrong with that society,” he said.

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“It is not right. It goes against God himself, who wanted our dignity, starting from here.”

Francis referred directly to the collapse last week of a garment factory in Bangladesh, which killed more than 400 employees. He expressed anger at their salary of $50 a month. “This was the payment of these people who have died,” the Pope said. “This is called slave labor."

“How many brothers and sisters throughout the world are in this situation because of these, economic, social, political attitudes?” he asked, lamenting how people have become subordinate to the profit they can offer to those in power.

“What point have we come to? To the point that we are not aware of this dignity of the person,” he said, recalling that May 1 is the feast of St. Joseph the Worker in the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis concluded by calling on people to listen to the voice of God, as when he spoke to Cain in the Old Testament and said: "Cain, where is your brother?"

Today, he said, God’s voice says: "Where is your brother who has no work? Where is your brother who is subjected to slave labor?”

As a cardinal in Argentina, Pope Francis said the poor most need jobs to give them dignity and must not be looked upon with disgust.

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