A US archbishop has urged Catholics to pray and work for an economy that respects the common good, as the country and the world continue to recover from the economic and human tolls of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“On this Labor Day, I express my gratitude to the many workers who have kept our country functioning during these trying times and worked under difficult and often underappreciated conditions. We also pray for those who lost or continue to lack resources or income,” Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City wrote in “A Dream for a Better Economy”.

Archbishop Coakley, chairman of the US Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said he based his reflections on Pope Francis’ latest encyclical, Fratelli tutti, as well as on the 2020 event ​​”Economy of Francesco.”

While the US unemployment rate has dropped to nearly pre-pandemic levels, the pandemic greatly increased people’s vulnerability to exploitation. Reports of human trafficking and sexual exploitation increased throughout the pandemic, and many Americans remain unemployed or underemployed. As many as 43,000 minor children in the U.S. have lost a parent as a result of the pandemic, Archbishop Coakley noted. 

“It is our task not only to reflect on the present ills of our economy, but also to build consensus around human dignity and the common good, the bedrocks of Catholic social teaching, and to answer the Pope’s call to propose new and creative economic responses to human need, both locally and globally,” Archbishop Coakley wrote. 

Catholic parishes and aid agencies, Archbishop Coakley says, are largely responding to the pope’s call to be “islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference” by aiding the poor and supporting essential workers. 

Pope Francis has repeatedly decried income inequality, and said in a late 2020 video message that "Once the present health crisis has passed, the worst reaction would be to fall even more deeply into feverish consumerism and forms of selfish self-protection."

Pope Francis considers employment to be the “biggest issue” in politics as it relates to reducing economic inequality, Archbishop Coakley said, and the bishops have emphasized the importance of creating jobs for those who are poor and marginalized, prioritizing organized labor and continued protection of workers’ rights. 

Pope Francis has observed that we sometimes justify our indifference for the poor “by looking the other way and living our lives as if they simply do not exist.”

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“Not only are our actions insufficient, but our sight as well, when we ignore the poor and do not allow their pleas to touch our hearts. Let us accept together the challenge of reemerging from this crisis with an economy that works for all of God’s children,” Archbishop Coakley urged. 

Catholics should pray for those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and if they are able, should offer to volunteer at their local parish or Catholic Charities site. 

“Finally, let us engage in building ‘a better kind of politics’ by entering into dialogue with elected officials, calling them to an authentic politics that is rooted in the dignity of the human person and promotes the common good,” Archbishop Coakley concluded.