Bishops in Portugal and Spain are backing a push to implement a Europe-wide guaranteed minimum income, calling the initiative “an anchor for the most disadvantaged”.
– An appeal from government ministers in Spain, Italy, Portugal
On May 8, government ministers from Spain, Italy and Portugal published an article in newspapers warning that “Europe is currently facing the greatest challenge in its history since World War II: fighting the COVID-19 pandemic by saving as many lives as possible”.
Given that “millions” of people across the continent “fear losing their jobs and seeing their living conditions deteriorate… governments must adopt ambitious and courageous measures of solidarity to avoid the risk of poverty and social exclusion”, wrote Pablo Iglesias, Spanish vice president and Minister for Social Rights; Nunzia Catalfo, Italian Minister of Labour and Social Rights, and Ana Mendes Godinho, Portuguese Minister of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security.
As part of those “ambitious” solidarity measures, Iglesias, Catalfo and Mendes Godinho called for a “European social shield” to protect the 113 million citizens at risk of poverty and social exclusion and the 25 million children living below the poverty line, and to head off a new economic and social crisis like the one that hit Europe after the 2008 GFC.
Recalling that Article 14 of the European Pillar of Social Rights calls for citizens to enjoy “adequate minimum income benefits ensuring a life in dignity at all stages of life”, the Spanish, Italian and Portuguese ministers urged the adoption of “a common minimum income guarantee framework” that would become “a legally binding instrument for all member states”.
– Braga archbishop: Church must support projects that promote “what is indispensable to citizens”
Commenting May 8 on the minimum income push to Portuguese Catholic news agency Ecclesia, Archbishop of Braga Jorge Ortiga said the initiative was one to “endorse” as an “anchor for the most disadvantaged”.
Ortiga expressed his desire that the initiative materialise and explained that projects that promote “what is indispensable to citizens” must be sponsored, in line with the Social Doctrine of the Church.
Although the Portuguese delegate to the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union said that the minimum income issue “has not yet” been debated at COMECE, he insisted that at first glance “it is a good step” because the “promotion of equality in differences” is an “act of solidarity”.
Reflecting on the reality of his diocese, Ortiga added that the COVID-19 pandemic has led “many small companies to bankruptcy”, but he stressed that “people will not give up and will continue to fight”.
Despite the unemployment caused by the crisis and the “discouragement that has set in”, the prelate added, people are “hopeful for the future”.
– Bishop of Palencia: “We must not accept a society where a few have fabulous wealth and others, a great number, are in need”
For his part, the Bishop of Palencia in Spain, Manuel Herrero, published a pastoral reflection May 11 in which he insisted that a minimum guaranteed income “insofar as it supports families who do not have the minimum necessary for a decent life is the right of every person, not only in the most advanced countries, but of every person, in whichever country”.
Referring to the Catholic notion of the universal destination of goods (Gaudium et spes, 69), Herrero wrote that the riches of the Earth, “given by the Creator, are not for a few, but for all; no one shoulld discarded, left on the sidelines, in the gutter of life”.
“We must not accept a society where a few have fabulous wealth and others, a great number, are in need of the most basic and elemental things in life”, the Augustinian clamoured.
He added that “a basic income is not an end in itself but a means for every person to regain his or her ability to return to work or to reintegrate into society. It is not simply a form of aid (emergency, temporary or permanent) but responds to the human ideal that no worker should be left without rights”.
“As a bishop… I cannot but support this initiative, which is also called for by so many Christian institutions, associations and movements”, Herrero concluded, referencing the minimum income call of ministers Iglesias, Catalfo and Mendes Godinho.
“It is not a partisan position but one of humanity, of charity and social justice and coherence with our principles”, the Palencia bishop explained.
“Christian communities must always keep in mind what the Book of Acts of the Apostles says of the first communities:
“‘Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need’ (Acts 4:32-35).
“And this not only within the Christian community, but in every human community”, Herrero insisted.