A cardinal has clarified that the “universal basic wage” the Pope called for in an Easter letter to the world’s popular movements is not to be understood as an appeal for a “universal basic income”.

– Cardinal Czerny: Pope’s appeal has “more precise scope” than universal basic income

Cardinal Michael Czerny, S.J., undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, offered the clarification to America after news outlets, including Novena, understood the Pope to be proposing a universal basic income.

Cardinal Czerny told America:

“The Spanish expression salario universal can well be translated into English as ‘universal basic wage’.

“This is not to be understood as equivalent to universal basic income, but to a different notion, coming from the Pope’s Argentinian background and his involvement with cartoneros [people who collect cardboard and paper products for compensation] in Buenos Aires.

“The Holy Father means finding a way to give public recognition, the guarantee of some basic rights and a stable wage to the workers of the informal sector. […]

“In other words, it is the solution to the problem that the same Easter Letter highlights a few lines earlier: ‘Many of you live from day to day, without any type of legal guarantee to protect you. […] you have no steady income to get you through this hard time'”.

America furthermore reported that Czerny clarified that the Pope’s proposal “has a more precise scope than universal basic income, as it refers only to informal workers”.

– Francis: “Our civilization – with its disproportionate profits for just a few — needs to downshift”

The question of a universal basic wage or income aside, the Pope’s April 12 letter to the popular movements was still full of prophetic charge.

“Market solutions do not reach the peripheries, and State protection is
hardly visible there”, Francis denounced.

He added that his hope was that “governments understand that technocratic paradigms (whether state-centred or market-driven) are not enough to address [the coronavirus crisis] or the other great problems affecting humankind”.

“Technocratic paradigms” is the Pope’s expression for the privileging of profit over the economy’s potentially negative effects on human beings (Laudato si’, 106-114).

“Now more than ever” – in the context of COVID-19 – “persons, communities and peoples must be put at the centre, united to heal, to care and to share”, the Pope insisted in his Easter missive.

Calling for “universal access” to the “three Ts” – in Spanish, trabajo (work), techo (housing) and tierra (“land, food”) – Francis said, too, that he hoped that “this time of danger” due to the coronavirus “will free us from operating on automatic pilot, shake our sleepy consciences and allow a humanist and ecological conversion that puts an end to the idolatry of
money and places human life and dignity at the centre”.

“Our civilization — so competitive, so individualistic, with its frenetic rhythms of production and consumption, its extravagant luxuries, its disproportionate profits for just a few — needs to downshift, take stock, and renew itself”, the Pope cried.

*Novena apologises to the Pope and to its readers for the misunderstanding in our initial report – since corrected – of equating the Pope’s salario universal with a universal basic income.

Next on Novena:

Prophetic: Pope rages against “economic power”, “idolatry” of money; proposes universal basic wage

Madrid auxiliary bishop backs Pope’s call for universal basic wage, says workers “cornerstone” for Church exit from coronavirus

Austrian Catholics argue from Church teaching for universal basic wage during coronavirus, beyond

From our partners at Pressenza International Press Agency: “Time to support the people”: 127,000 Europeans ask Brussels for urgent coronavirus relief in form of universal basic wage


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.