.- Speaking to laborers in the Mexican City of Juarez on Wednesday, Pope Francis laid out several key areas of focus in fighting what he called “the cycle of drug trafficking and violence.”
“One of the greatest scourges for young people is the lack of opportunities for study and for sustainable and profitable work, which would permit them to work for the future,” the Pope said Feb. 17.
He said that this lack of opportunity frequently leads to situations of poverty, which then becomes “the best breeding ground for the young to fall into the cycle of drug trafficking and violence.”
This, the Pope said, “is a luxury which no one can afford; we cannot allow the present and future of Mexico to be alone and abandoned.”
Pope Francis met with members of Mexico’s workforce Feb. 17 in Ciudad Juarez on his last day in the country. Juarez borders the U.S. city of El Paso, Texas, and is a major destination for thousands of immigrants from Mexico and Central America who want to enter the United States.
The Pope’s visit to Juarez is the last in a series of daytrips he has made to some of the poorest and most violent areas of the country, including the state of Chiapas and the city of Morelia in Mexico’s Michoacán state.
His final stop in Juarez has special meaning not only because of the border Mass he will celebrate later in the afternoon, but also because of the sharp distinction between the economic state of the two countries on each side of the border.
Before speaking to the workers, Pope Francis listened to the testimonies of both a married couple who work, and high-level businessman.
Daisy Flores Gamez and her husband Jesus Varela Arturo Gurrola expressed their concern that economic problems are making it increasingly more difficult to balance family life and true care for one's children. They also said that, in their opinion, the decline and conflict of values is due to the absence of parents in the home.
The Pope also heard from Juan Pablo Castanon, national president of the Business Coordinating Council, who shared his concerns on problems related to poverty and unemployment, and stressed the importance of developing technology, but not allowing it to take the place of people.
In his speech to the workers, Pope Francis said that “more needs to be done” in fostering a culture of dialogue, encounter and inclusion.
“Unfortunately, the times we live in have imposed the paradigm of economic utility as the starting point for personal relationships,” he said, noting that the current mentality pushes for “the greatest possible profits, immediately and at any cost.”
This mentality not only destroys the ethical dimension of business, but also ignores the fact that the best investment to be made is in people – both as individuals and as families, he said.
When the flow of people is put “at the service of the flow of capital,” the result is the exploitation of employees “as if they were objects to be used and discarded,” Francis said, quoting his environmental encyclical, Laudato Si.
God, he added, “will hold us accountable for the slaves of our day, and we must do everything to make sure that these situations do not happen again.”
Francis noted that some people object to the social doctrine of the Church, saying it reduces business to mere charity organizations or “philanthropic institutions.”
However, he stressed, the “only aspiration of the Church’s Social Doctrine is to guard over the integrity of people and social structures.”
“Every time that, for whatever reason, this integrity is threatened or reduced to a consumer good, the Church’s Social Doctrine will be a prophetic voice to protect us all from being lost in the seductive sea of ambition,” he said.
Pope Francis warned that each time a person’s integrity is violated, it begins a process of declination for society as a whole. Therefore, every sector of society is obliged look out for the good of everyone.
“We are all in the same boat. We all have to struggle to make sure that work is a humanizing moment which looks to the future,” he said, and asked those present what kind of world and what kind of Mexico they want to leave for their children.
“Do you want to leave them the memory of exploitation, of insufficient pay, of workplace harassment? Or do you want to leave them a culture which recalls dignified work, a proper roof, and land to be worked?”
He also asked whether they would leave behind air “tainted by corruption, violence, insecurity and suspicion, or, on the contrary, an air capable of generating alternatives, renewal and change?”
Francis acknowledged that the issues he raised are not easy to face, but said that leaving the future in the hands of corruption, brutality and inequity would be worse.
Even though it’s difficult to bring different sides together to negotiate, more harm is done by refusing to negotiate, the Pope said. He added that while getting along can be hard in an increasingly competitive world, it would be worse if society allows this competition to destroy people.
“Profit and capital are not a good over and above the human person; they are at the service of the common good,” he said. When the common good is used only to serve profit and capital, “the only thing gained is known as exclusion.”
Francis closed his speech by inviting the citizens of Mexico to build a country “that your children deserve; a Mexico where no one is first, second or fourth; a Mexico where each sees in the other the dignity of a child of God.”