General Audience - Pope deplores plight of farm workers 'harshly exploited' in Italian countryside

General Audience: Pope deplores plight of farm workers “very harshly exploited” in Italian countryside

(Source: MJ/ZENIT)

In today’s General Audience, the Pope deplored the plight of farm workers – among them “many migrants” – who are “harshly exploited” in the Italian countryside, launching a special appeal that the coronavirus crisis “may give us the opportunity to make the dignity of the person and the dignity of work the centre of our concern”.

A new cycle of catechesis on prayer

In his address in Italian at the audience, the Pope began a new series of catecheses on the theme of prayer (Mark 10:46-52).

After summarising his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to the faithful. Then he made an appeal in favour of the world of work and, in particular, exploited workers.

The General Audience ended with the recitation of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.

“Faith is hope of being saved; non-faith is to get used to evil”

Full text of the Pope’s catechesis

Today we begin a new series of catecheses on the theme of prayer. Prayer is the breath of faith, it is its most proper expression, as a cry that issues from the heart of one who believes and entrusts himself to God.

We think of the story of Bartimaeus, a personage of the Gospel (cf. Mark 10:46-52 and par.) and I confess to you, for me the most likable of all.

He was blind, sitting by the roadside begging on the outskirts of his city, Jericho. He isn’t an anonymous personality; he has a face and a name: Bartimaeus, namely, “son of Timaeus.”

One day he hears it said that Jesus would be passing by there. In fact, Jericho was a crossroads of people, constantly traversed by pilgrims and merchants. Therefore, Bartimaeus lies in wait: he did everything possible to meet Jesus. So many people did the same thing: we recall Zacchaeus, who climbed up on the tree. So many wanted to see Jesus, he did too.

Thus, this man enters in the Gospels as a voice that shouts loudly. He cannot see; he doesn’t know if Jesus is close or far, but he understands from the crowd that increases at a certain point and he approaches… However, he is completely alone and no one is concerned about him. And what does Bartimaeus do?

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He shouts, and shouts and continues to shout. He uses the only weapon in his possession: his voice. He begins to cry out: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (v. 47). And he continues thus, shouting.

His repeated shouts annoy, don’t seem polite, and many rebuke him and tell him to be quiet. “But be polite, don’t do that!” However, Bartimameus doesn’t keep quiet, instead, he shouts even louder “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (v. 47).”

It is that very good stubbornness of those that seek a grace and knock, knock on the door of God’s heart.

He shouts, knocks. That expression,” Son of David,” is very important, it means “the Messiah,” – he confesses the Messiah -; it’s a profession of faith that issues from the mouth of that man, scorned by all.

And Jesus listens to his cry.

Bartimaeus’ prayer touches His heart, God’s heart, and the doors of salvation open for him.

Jesus had him called. He springs to his feet and those that before told him to be quiet now lead him to the Master; Jesus speaks to him, He asks him to express his desire – this is important – and then the cry becomes a request: “Let me receive my sight, Lord!” (cf. v. 51). Jesus says to him: “Go your way; your faith has made you well” (v. 52).

He acknowledges in that poor, helpless, scorned man all the power of his faith, which attracts God’s mercy and power.

Faith is to have two hands raised, a voice that cries to implore the gift of salvation.

The Catechism affirms that “humility is the foundation of prayer” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCC, 2559).

Prayer is born of the earth, of the humus, from which “humble” derives –“humility” –; it comes from our precarious state, from our continuous thirst for God (cf. Ibid., 2560-2561).

Faith, we saw in Bartimaeus, is a cry; non-faith is to suffocate that cry, that attitude that the people had, in silencing him.

They weren’t people of faith, instead, he was. To suffocate that cry is a sort of “omerta” [“code of silence”].

Faith is protest against a painful condition whose motive we don’t understand; non-faith is to limit oneself to endure a situation to which we are adapted.

Faith is hope of being saved; non-faith is to get used to the evil that oppresses us, and to continue thus.

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Dear brothers and sisters, we begin this series of catecheses with Bartimaeus’ cry because perhaps, in a figure such as his, everything is already written.

Bartimaeus is a persevering man. There were people around him that explained that to implore was useless, that it was unanswered shouting, that he was noisy, that he was just disturbing, that he please stop shouting. However, he did not remain silent and, in the end, he got what he wanted.

There is a voice in man’s heart that invokes, louder than any contrary argumentation.

We all have this voice within, A voice that issues spontaneously, without anyone ordering it, a voice that questions the meaning of our journey down here, especially when we find ourselves in darkness.

“Jesus, have mercy on me! Jesus, have mercy on me!” This is a beautiful prayer. But are these words, perhaps, not sculpted in the whole of creation?

Everything invokes and implores that the mystery of mercy find its definitive fulfilment.

Christians are not the only ones that pray: they share the cry of prayer with all men and women. However, the horizon can be widened still more: Paul affirms that the whole of creation “groans in travail” (Romans 8:22).

Artists often make themselves interpreters of this silent cry of creation, which weighs on every creature and emerges especially in man’s heart, because man is a “beggar before God” (Cf. CCC, 2559).

A beautiful description of man: “beggar before God.” Thank you.

Act of supplication to Our Lady of the Rosary at the Shrine of Pompeii

Full text of the Pope’s greeting in Italian

The day after tomorrow, Friday, May 8, at the Shrine of Pompeii, an intense prayer will be elevated of “Supplication to Our Lady of the Rosary.”

I exhort all to unite themselves spiritually to this popular act of faith and devotion, so that through the intercession of the Holy Virgin, the Lord may grant mercy and peace to the Church and to the whole world.

I greet the Italian-speaking faithful. A short time ago we began the month of May, which Christian popular devotion dedicates to the Mother of the Lord. I exhort you to entrusts yourselves to Her, who was given to us as Mother under the Cross.

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A special thought goes to young people, the elderly, the sick and newlyweds. Place yourselves with trust under Mary’s maternal protection and be certain that She won’t have us lack her comfort in the hour of trial. May the Lord bless you and Our Lady protect you.

“People’s dignity must always be respected”

Full text of the Pope’s appeal

On May 1, I received several messages about the world of work and its problems.

I was particularly struck by that of the farm workers, among them many migrants, who work in the Italian countryside. Unfortunately, many are very harshly exploited.

It is true that the current crisis affects everyone, but people’s dignity must always be respected.

That is why I add my voice to the appeal of these workers and of all exploited workers. May the crisis give us the opportunity to make the dignity of the person and the dignity of work the centre of our concern.

(Translation: Virginia M. Forrester)

Next on Novena:

30/4: Pope deplores “unacceptable conditions of exploitation” of migrant farm workers, pushes for their regularisation

On feast of St. Joseph the Worker, Pope pleads for jobs, dignity and a just wage for all

More of the Pope’s Wednesday General Audiences:

29/4: General Audience: Francis encourages Christians to be “nuisances” to world’s “system of greed”

22/4: Pope warns in Earth Day General Audience: “We have no future if we destroy the very environment that sustains us”

15/4: Pope warns in General Audience: “The ‘peace’ desired by some corresponds to the ‘war’ of others”

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Mada Jurado

Reporter and community manager at Novena
Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.