POPE’S MESSAGE | Shady business deals that threaten employment a ‘grave sin’

Alessandro Bianchi | Reuters
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VATICAN CITY — Employers who make business deals that threaten people's livelihood commit a sin that robs men, women and their families of their dignity, according to Pope Francis.

"Whoever — because of economic maneuvering and business dealings that are not all clear — closes factories and businesses and takes work away from men and women commits a grave sin," the pope said March 15 before concluding his weekly general audience.

The pope was speaking to a group of employees from Italy's Sky television; several hundred employees risk losing their jobs after the company announced plans to move their Rome headquarters to Milan.

According to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Sky Italia claimed the move was due to rising costs and an outdated digital infrastructure in Rome. Local workers' unions have criticized the company's decision that will force 300 workers to transfer from the capital while an estimated 200 employees will be left without a job.

Before the audience, the pope circled St. Peter's Square in the popemobile, stopping to kiss babies and wave to the thousands of pilgrims.

The pope also stepped out of the popemobile and greeted Chinese pilgrims from the Tanjin Meng Fu Lu Chang group. One pilgrim holding a child couldn't contain his emotions, kneeling and prostrating while the pope stooped down to help him up. The child also bowed respectfully.

Another Chinese pilgrim approached the pope on her knees and the pope, visibly moved, tried to raise her up. He also greeted the other pilgrims, who were waving Chinese flags and holding a statue of Our Lady of Fatima, which he blessed.

In his main audience talk, part of a series on Christian hope, Pope Francis reflected on St. Paul's call in his Letter to the Romans for Christians to be "joyful in hope" and sincere in their love.

A Christian's "highest vocation" is the call to love and charity, the pope said, adding that St. Paul also warns of "the risk that our charity can become hypocritical."

"Hypocrisy can infiltrate anywhere, even in our way of loving," he said, especially when acts of love or charity are done "to put ourselves on display or so that we feel fulfilled."

Christians must ask themselves if their love is sincere and "not that of a soap opera," the pope said. "There is a false, misleading idea behind all this: namely that if we love, it is because we are good, as if charity was a creation of man, a product of our heart."

Charity and love are a grace that is meant to shine forth what "the Lord gives us and what we freely receive," the pope explained, adding that St. Paul's warning is "not so much a reproach but rather an encouragement to revive hope in us. ... We need the Lord to continually renew this gift in our hearts through the experience of his mercy. In this way, we will be able to appreciate the little, simple and ordinary things again, and we will be able to love others as God loves them." 

Pope: Conversion doesn't happen through magic, but concrete actions

VATICAN CITY — Conversion doesn't come from the wave of a magic wand, but from learning to do good through concrete actions every day, Pope Francis said.

While even "the saintliest person sins seven times a day," conversion happens through humility and trying to become "better than the day before," the pope said March 14 at Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

"Converting doesn't mean going to a fairy with a magic wand," he said. "No, it is a path, a path of turning away (from evil) and of learning."

Reflecting on the day's first reading from the prophet Isaiah (1:10, 16-20), the pope said, "You learn to do good through concrete things. Not with words, but with actions."

The reading from Isaiah gives three examples: "Help the oppressed, hear the orphan's plea and defend the widow."

In the day's Gospel reading from Matthew (23:1-12), the pope continued, Jesus also reproaches the scribes and Pharisees because they don't practice what they preach.

"They do not know concreteness. If there is no concreteness, there can be no conversion," he said.

Pope Francis said Christians are called to embark on "the path of Lenten conversion," knowing that God "is a father who speaks, He is a father who loves us."

"He accompanies us on this path of conversion. He only asks of us to be humble," he said. "Then our sins all will be forgiven."

— Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service 

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