In the second reading in today's liturgy the Apostle Paul stresses the importance of work in a person's life. This aspect is also recalled by the "Day of Thanksgiving," which is traditionally celebrated in Italy on this second Sunday of November as a day of giving thanks to God at the end of the harvest season. Even if the in other geographical areas the times of cultivation are naturally different, today I would like to follow the lead of the words of St. Paul for some reflections, especially on agricultural work.
The current economic crisis, which has also been addressed recently in the meeting of the so-called Group of 20, must be taken in all its seriousness: It has numerous causes and sends a powerful message about the need for a profound revision of the model of global economic development (cf. "Caritas in Veritate," No. 21). It's an acute symptom that is added to other more grave and already well-known ones, such as the continued imbalance between wealth and poverty, the scandal of hunger, the ecological emergency and the problem of unemployment, which has now become general. In this context a strategic re-launching of agriculture appears decisive. In fact, the process of industrialization has often overshadowed the agricultural sector, which, while also drawing benefit from modern technologies, has nevertheless lost importance, with notable consequences, even at the cultural level. I believe that this is the moment for the reevaluation of agriculture, not in a nostalgic sense, but as an indispensable resource for the future.
In the current economic situation, the temptation for the more dynamic economies is that of chasing after advantageous alliances that, nevertheless, can have harmful effects for poorer states, prolonging situations of extreme mass poverty of men and women and using up the earth's natural resources, entrusted to man by God the Creator -- as Genesis says -- that he might cultivate and protect it (cf. 2:15). Moreover, despite the crisis, in countries that have long been industrialized, lifestyles marked by unsustainable consumption -- which have damaging effects for the environment and the poor -- still continue. It is necessary, then, to point in a truly unified way to a new balance between agriculture, industry and services, so that development be sustainable, and no one go without bread and work, and so that air and water and the other primary resources be preserved as universal goods (cf. "Caritas in Veritate," No. 27).
To this end, it is essential to cultivate and spread a clear ethic that is up to the task of addressing current challenges: Everyone should educate themselves in more wise and responsible consumption; promote personal responsibility, along with the social dimension of rural activities, which are based on perennial values, such as hospitality, solidarity, and the sharing of the toil of labor. More than a few young people have already chosen this path; also many professionals are returning to dedicate themselves to the agricultural enterprise, feeling that they are responding not only to a personal and family need, but also to a "sign of the times," to a concrete sensibility for the "common good."
Let us pray to the Virgin Mary that these reflections can serve as a stimulus to the international community, while we give our thanks to God for the fruits of the earth and the work of man.
[Following the Angelus the Holy Father greeted those present in various languages. In Italian he said:]
Dear friends, in this moment, I would like to renew my nearness to the dear people of Haiti, who, because of last January's terrible earthquake, are now suffering from a grave cholera epidemic. I encourage everyone who is responding to this new emergency and, while I assure a special remembrance in my prayer, I call on the international community to generously assist these people.
On Saturday, Nov. 27, in St. Peter's Basilica, I will preside over the first vespers of the first Sunday of Advent and a prayer vigil for those in the early stages of life. This is a joint initiative with the local Churches throughout the world and I have recommended it to be observed in parishes, religious communities, associations and movements too. The time of preparation for Holy Christmas is a propitious moment to invoke divine protection for every human being called into existence, and also for a thanksgiving to God for the gift of life received from our parents.
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
[In English he said:]
I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer, particularly the parish groups from California in the United States. Today's Gospel reminds us that our lives and all history will be judged in the light of God's truth. In these final days of the Church's liturgical year, let us pray for the grace to remain always faithful to the Lord, as we look forward to Christ's coming in glory and the fulfillment of his promises. Upon you and your families I invoke God's gifts of wisdom, strength and peace!
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