Benedict XVI's Address to Italian Artisans
Work: "A Means and Path of Holiness"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 27, 2007 ( Here is the Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave March 31 to the directors and members of an Italian association of artisans.

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Paul VI Audience Hall
Saturday, 31 March 2007

Dear Friends,

I am particularly pleased with your visit and I address my cordial greeting to each one of you. I greet in particular your President, Mr Giorgio Natalino Guerrini, and thank him for his courteous and profound words to me on behalf of all. I extend my respectful thoughts to the other directors and members of your Confederation, which is now more than 60 years old, years rich with intense activity.

Confartigianato was founded in 1946 on the principle of free enrolment open to every geographical, sectorial and cultural member of entrepreneurial activity and small artisan businesses. There is no doubt that it has helped to build the modern Italian Nation. It has characterized certain important aspects of the Nation's development in society and economics, art and culture, and has impressed its own stylistic code upon Italian progress.

Indeed, if until a few decades ago, craftwork evoked something "old-fashioned" and "picturesque", to be associated with the image of the locksmith or the cobbler's workshop, today instead it stands for autonomy, creativity and personalization in the production of goods and services.

Dear friends, your presence offers me the opportunity to reflect on an important aspect of human experience. I am referring to the reality of work, which in this age is in the midst of tremendous economic and social changes that are increasingly rapid and complex.

In the Bible, the authentic meaning of human work is highlighted in various passages. To start with Genesis, we read that the Creator made man in his image and likeness and invited him to cultivate the earth (cf. Genesis 2:5-6).

Work is consequently inherent in man's original condition. Unfortunately, because of our first parents' sin it became an effort and a penalty (cf. Genesis 3:6-8), but in the divine plan its value has remained unchanged.

And the Church, faithful to God's Word, does not cease to recall the principle: "Work is "for man' and not man "for work'" ("Laborem Exercens," No. 6). Thus, she ceaselessly proclaims the primacy of man over the work of his hands and recalls that it must all be oriented to the true progress of the human person and the common good: capital, science, technology, public resources and even private ownership.

This has been felicitously achieved in the craftwork businesses you represent, which are inspired by the Gospel teachings and the principles of the Church's social doctrine.

I would like here to recall what the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church says in this regard: "Work in small and medium-sized businesses, the work of artisans and independent work can represent an occasion to make the actual work experience more human, both in terms of the possibility of establishing positive personal relationships in smaller-sized communities and in terms of the opportunities for greater initiative and industriousness" (No. 315).

Dear artisans, on the occasion of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, my Predecessor John Paul II addressed some significant words to you which have retained the same timeliness and urgency. Today, I would like to present them once again to the whole of Confartigianato: "You can give new strength and practical expression to those values which have always marked your activity: quality, a spirit of initiative, the promotion of artistic skills, freedom and cooperation, the correct relationship between technology and the environment, devotion to family, good neighbourly relations.

"In the past", he added, "the culture of crafts has created great occasions for bringing people together and has bequeathed wonderful syntheses of culture and faith to later generations" (Teachings of John Paul II, 2000, vol. 1, p. 372).

Dear friends, continue with tenacity and perseverance to preserve and put to good use the productive craft culture that can give life to important opportunities for balanced financial progress and encounters between men and peoples.

Furthermore, may you as Christians be committed to living and testifying to the "Gospel of work", in the awareness that the Lord calls all the baptized to holiness through their daily occupations.
Josemaría Escrivá, a Saint of our times, notes in this regard that since Christ who worked as a craftsman took it into his hands, "work has become for us a redeemed and redemptive reality. Not only is it the background of man's life, it is a means and path of holiness. It is something to be sanctified and something which sanctifies" (Christ Is Passing By, Homily, n. 47).

May the Virgin Mary, who lived in hardworking concealment, and St Joseph, Patron of the Church and your special Protector, help you in this task which becomes a precious service to evangelization. At the school of the Family of Nazareth you can learn how to join more easily a coherent life of faith with the efforts and difficulties of work, personal profit and the commitment to solidarity for the needy.

As I renew to you the expression of my gratitude for your visit, I assure you of a special remembrance in prayer for each one of you and for your various activities, and I cordially bless you together with your loved ones.


Papal Address to Italian Christian Executives
"Justice and Charity the Inseparable Aspects of Single Social Commitment"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 27, 2006 ( Here is the Holy See's translation of an address Benedict XVI gave to the Italian Christian Executives (UCID) during an encounter March 4 in Paul VI Hall.

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Your Eminence,
Dear Friends of the Christian Union of Business Executives,

I am pleased to welcome you and to address my cordial greeting to each one of you. A special thought goes to Cardinal Ennio Antonelli who has interpreted your common sentiments. I thank him for his address, and I am also grateful to the president of the UCID for courteously introducing our meeting and presenting the ideals and style of your commitment, as individuals and as an association.

I am particularly impressed by your determination to aspire to an ethic that goes beyond mere professional deontology -- even if, in the current context, this would be quite something. It made me think of the relationship between justice and charity, to which I dedicated a specific reflection in the second part of the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" (Nos. 26-29).

Christians are called to seek justice always, but possess an inner impulse to love that goes beyond justice itself. The journey of lay Christians, from the mid-19th century to today, has brought them to the awareness that charitable acts must not replace the commitment to social justice.

The Church's social doctrine and especially the action of so many groups of Christian inspiration, such as yours, demonstrate the great progress the ecclesial community has made in this area.

In recent times, also thanks to the magisterium and to the witness of the Roman Pontiffs, and in particular, that of beloved Pope John Paul II, it has become clearer to all of us that justice and charity are the two inseparable aspects of the single social commitment of Christians.

It is incumbent on lay faithful in particular to work for a just order in society, taking part in public life in the first person, cooperating with other citizens and fulfilling their own responsibility (cf. "Deus Caritas Est," No. 29).

In doing just this, they are motivated by "social charity" which makes them attentive to people as individuals, to situations of greater difficulty and loneliness, and to needs that are not only material (cf. ibid., No. 28b).

Thanks to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, two years ago the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church was published. It is an especially useful instrument of formation for all who wish to be guided by the Gospel in their work and professional activity.

I am sure that you too have made it the object of attentive examination, and I hope that for each one of you and for the local branches of the UCID it will become a constant reference point in examining issues, working out projects and seeking solutions for the complex problems of the world of work and of the economy.

Indeed, it is precisely in this sphere that you carry out an indispensable part of your mission as lay Christians, and consequently, part of the process of your sanctification.

I was also interested to see the "Charter of values" of the young members of the UCID and I congratulate you on the positive spirit and confidence in the human person that enlivens it. To each "I believe" it adds an "I commit myself," thereby focusing on the coherence between strong conviction and the consequent active effort.

In particular, I appreciated the resolution to value every person for what he or she is and can give according to one's talents, avoiding every form of exploitation; I also appreciated the recognition of the importance of the family and of personal responsibility.

Unfortunately, partly because of current economic difficulties, these values often run the risk of not being followed by those business persons who lack a sound moral inspiration. Therefore, the contribution of those who draw from their Christian formation is indispensable, and thus should not be taken for granted but always nourished and renewed.

Dear friends, in a few days' time, we will be celebrating the solemnity of St. Joseph, patron of workers. There is no doubt that throughout its history your association has always had a veneration for St. Joseph.

For my part I, who bear his name, am pleased today to be able to point him out to you not only as a heavenly protector and intercessor for every worthwhile initiative, but first and foremost as one to whom you can confide your prayer and your ordinary commitment, which are surely marked both by satisfactions and disappointments in your daily life and, I would say, tenacious search for God's justice in human affairs.

St. Joseph himself will help you put into practice Jesus' demanding exhortation: "Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness" (cf. Matthew 6:33).

May the Virgin Mary also always help you, together with the great witnesses of social charity who have spread the Gospel of charity with their teaching and action.

Lastly, may you be accompanied by the apostolic blessing, which I cordially impart to you who are present here and gladly extend to all the members and to your relatives.


Benedict XVI's Homily at Mass for All Workers
"Not to Be Enslaved by Work or Idolize It"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 27, 2006 ( Here is a Holy See translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered March 19 in St. Peter's Basilica, at a Mass celebrated for all workers. The Mass fell on the Third Sunday of Lent but anticipated the next day's solemnity of St. Joseph.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We have listened together to a famous and beautiful passage from the Book of Exodus, in which the sacred author tells of God's presentation of the Decalogue to Israel. One detail makes an immediate impression: The announcement of the Ten Commandments is introduced by a significant reference to the liberation of the People of Israel. The text says: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Exodus 20:2).

Thus, the Decalogue is intended as a confirmation of the freedom gained. Indeed, at a closer look, the Commandments are the means that the Lord gives us to protect our freedom, both from the internal conditioning of passions and from the external abuse of those with evil intentions. The "noes" of the Commandments are as many "yeses" to the growth of true freedom.

There is a second dimension of the Decalogue that should also be emphasized: By the Law which he gave through Moses, the Lord revealed that he wanted to make a covenant with Israel. The Law, therefore, is a gift more than an imposition. Rather than commanding what the human being ought to do, its intention is to reveal to all the choice of God: He takes the side of the Chosen People; he set them free from slavery and surrounds them with his merciful goodness. The Decalogue is a proof of his special love.

Today's liturgy offers us a second message: The Mosaic Law was totally fulfilled in Jesus, who revealed God's wisdom and love through the mystery of the Cross, "a stumbling block to Jews and an absurdity to Gentiles; but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1: 23-24).

The Gospel just proclaimed refers precisely to this: Jesus drove the merchants and money-changers out of the temple. Through the verse of a psalm: "Zeal for your house has consumed me" (cf. Psalm 68[69]:10), the Evangelist provides a key for the interpretation of this significant episode. And Jesus was "consumed" by this "zeal" for the "house of God," which was being used for purposes other than those for which it was intended.

To the amazement of everyone present, he responded to the request of the religious leaders who demand evidence of his authority by saying: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19). These are mysterious words that were incomprehensible at the time; John, however, paraphrased them for his Christian readers, saying: "Actually, he was talking about the temple of his body" (John 2:21).

His enemies were to destroy that "temple," but after three days he would rebuild it through the resurrection. The distressful "stumbling block" of Christ's death was to be crowned by the triumph of his glorious resurrection.

In this Lenten season, while we are preparing to relive this central event of our salvation in the Easter triduum, we are already looking at the Crucified One, seeing in him the brightness of the Risen One.

Dear brothers and sisters, today's Eucharistic celebration, which combines the commemoration of St. Joseph with meditation on the liturgical texts of the Third Sunday of Lent, gives us the opportunity to consider in the light of the paschal mystery another important aspect of human life. I am referring to the reality of work, which exists today in the midst of rapid and complex changes.

In many passages, the Bible shows that work is one of the original conditions of the human being. When the Creator shaped man in his image and likeness, he asked him to till the land (cf. Genesis 2:5-6). It was because of the sin of our first parents that work became a burden and an affliction (cf. Genesis 3:6-8), but in the divine plan it retains its value, unaltered.

The Son of God, by making himself like us in all things, dedicated himself for many years to manual activities, so that he was known as "the carpenter's son" (cf. Matthew 13:55). The Church has always, but especially in the last century, shown attention and concern for this social context, as the many social interventions of the magisterium testify and the action of many associations of Christian inspiration show; some of them are gathered here today and represent the whole world of workers.

I am pleased to welcome you, dear friends, and I address my cordial greeting to each one of you. A special thought goes to Bishop Arrigo Miglio of Ivrea and president of the Italian episcopal Commission for Social Problems and Work, Justice and Peace, who has interpreted your common sentiments and addressed courteous good wishes to me for my name day. I am deeply grateful to him.

Work is of fundamental importance to the fulfillment of the human being and to the development of society. Thus, it must always be organized and carried out with full respect for human dignity and must always serve the common good.

At the same time, it is indispensable that people not allow themselves to be enslaved by work or idolize it, claiming to find in it the ultimate and definitive meaning of life.

The invitation contained in the First Reading is appropriate in this regard: "Remember to keep holy the sabbath day. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord, your God" (Exodus 20:8-9). The sabbath is a holy day, that is, a day consecrated to God on which man understands better the meaning of his life and his work. It can therefore be said that the biblical teaching on work is crowned by the commandment of rest.

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church speaks opportunely of this: "For man, bound as he is to the necessity of work, this rest opens to the prospect of a fuller freedom, that of the eternal sabbath (cf. Hebrews 4:9-10). Rest gives men and women the possibility to remember and experience anew God's work from Creation to Redemption, in order to recognize themselves as his work (cf. Ephesians 2:10), and to give thanks for their lives and for their subsistence in him who is their author" (No. 258).

Work must serve the true good of humanity, permitting "men as individuals and as members of society to pursue and fulfill their total vocation" ("Gaudium et Spes," No. 35). For this to happen, technical and professional qualifications, although necessary, do not suffice; nor does the creation of a just social order, attentive to the common good.

It is necessary to live a spirituality that helps believers to sanctify themselves through their work, imitating St. Joseph, who had to provide with his own hands for the daily needs of the Holy Family and whom, consequently, the Church holds up as patron of workers. His witness shows that man is the subject and protagonist of work.

I would like to entrust to St. Joseph those young people who are finding integration into the working world difficult, the unemployed and everyone who is suffering hardship due to the widespread employment crisis.

Together with Mary, his Spouse, may St. Joseph watch over all workers and obtain serenity and peace for families and for the whole of humanity.

May Christians, looking at this great saint, learn to witness in every working environment to the love of Christ, the source of true solidarity and lasting peace. Amen!


Papal Address to Italian Christian Workers' Associations
Misuse of Science and Technology "Can Seriously Threaten the Destiny of Life Itself"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 24, 2006 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Jan. 27 to the Italian Christian Workers' Associations, in an audience in the Clementine Hall.

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Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate
and in the Presbyterate,
Dear Members of the ACLI,

We are meeting today on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Italian Christian Workers' Associations. I greet President Luigi Bobba and warmly thank him for his courteous words that truly touched me; I greet the other leaders and each one of you. I offer a special greeting to the bishops and priests who have accompanied you and who are concerned with your spiritual formation.

The birth of your sodality is due to the farsighted intuition of Pope Pius XII of venerable memory. He desired to form a visible and effective presence of Italian Catholics in the world of work and availed himself of the precious collaboration of Giovanni Battista Montini, then substitute of the Secretariat of State.

Ten years later, on 1 May 1955, the same Pontiff established the feast of St. Joseph the Worker to point out to all the world's workers the way to personal sanctification through work, and thereby to restore the perspective of authentic humanization to the drudgery of daily life.

Today too, the question of work, the focus of rapid and complex changes, never ceases to call the human conscience into question and requires that workers do not lose sight of the basic principle that must guide every practical decision: the good of all human beings and of the whole of society.

Within this basic fidelity to God's original plan, I would like here to re-read briefly, with you and for you, the three "orders" or "fidelities" which in the past you have been committed to embodying in your multiform activity.

The first fidelity that the ACLI are called to live is fidelity to workers. The person is the "measure of the dignity of work" (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 271). For this reason, the magisterium has always recalled the human dimension of the activity of work and has redirected it to its true aim, without forgetting that the biblical teaching on work culminates in the commandment to rest. To require, therefore, that Sunday should not be equated to all other days of the week is a civilized decision.

Other priorities derive from the primacy of the ethical value of human labor: of the person over work (cf. "Laborem Exercens," No. 12), of work over capital (ibid.), of the universal destination of goods over the right to possess private property (ibid., No. 14), in short, the priority of being over having (ibid., No. 20).

This hierarchy of priorities shows clearly that the work environment is fully part of the anthropological issue. Today, a new and unheard-of implication of the social question connected with the protection of life is emerging in this area. We live in a time in which science and technology offer extraordinary possibilities for improving everyone's existence. But a distorted use of this power can seriously and irreparably threaten the destiny of life itself.

Thus, the teaching of beloved John Paul II, who asked us to see life as the new frontier of the social question (cf. "Evangelium Vitae," No. 20), should be reasserted. The protection of life from its conception until its natural end and wherever it is threatened, offended or trampled upon, is the first duty in which an authentic ethic of responsibility is expressed that should be consistently extended to all other forms of poverty, injustice and exclusion.

The second "fidelity" I would like to recommend to you is -- in conformity with the spirit of your Founding Fathers -- fidelity to democracy, which alone can guarantee equality and rights to everyone. Indeed, there is a sort of reciprocal dependence between democracy and justice that impels everyone to work responsibly to safeguard each person's rights, especially those of the weak and marginalized.

This being said, it should not be forgotten that the search for truth is at the same time the condition for the possibility of a real and not only apparent democracy: "As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism" ("Centesimus Annus," No. 46).

From here comes the invitation to work, to increase consensus around a framework of shared references, for otherwise the appeal to democracy risks becoming a mere procedural formality that perpetuates differences and exacerbates problems.

The third task is fidelity to the Church. Only cordial and passionate adherence to the journey of the Church will guarantee that necessary identity which can make itself present in every social milieu of the world without losing the savor and scent of the Gospel.

It is not by accident that John Paul II addressed these words to you on 1 May 1995: "The Gospel alone renews the ACLI"; they still mark out the principal route for your association, since they encourage you to put the Word of God at the center of your life and to see evangelization as an integral part of your mission.

The presence, then, of priests as spiritual guides helps you make the most of your relationship with the local Church and strengthens your commitment to ecumenism and interreligious dialogue.

As associated Christian lay people and workers, always take pains with the formation of your members and leaders, with a view to the special service to which you are called. As witnesses of the Gospel and weavers of fraternal bonds, be present courageously in the crucial areas of social life.

Dear friends, the main theme of your 60th anniversary celebration was the reinterpretation of these historical "fidelities," doing justice to the fourth task with which Venerable John Paul II urged you to "extend the bounds of your social action" (Address to the ACLI, April 27, 2002; L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, June 12, No. 4, p. 11).

May this commitment to the future of humanity always be enlivened by Christian hope. In this way you too, as witnesses of the Risen Jesus, Hope of the world, will help to impress new dynamism upon the great tradition of the Italian Christian Workers' Associations and be able to cooperate under the action of the Holy Spirit to renew the face of the earth.

May God accompany you and the Blessed Virgin protect you, your families and all your projects. I bless you with affection, as I assure you of my special remembrance in prayer.