TURIN, Italy – More than two decades ago, on Nov. 1, 1993, the European Union emerged from the Maastricht Treaty with high hopes and big plans for growth in its economy, free trade, social life, government accomplishment and influence.
But it now is facing implosion because of what Pope Francis is calling an “economic crisis” of historic proportions that is impacting its people.
Its youth, senior citizens and impaired all also are being discarded as “no longer useful or needed,” he warned.
“Employment is necessary not only for the economy, but for human dignity,” he told an audience assembled in the Piazzetta Reale as he appeared for mass to celebrate the most recent exposition of the Shroud of Turin.
The display began March 29 and was wrapping up with the overflow crowd of 60,000 faithful packed into the 40,000 square meters (430,566 square feet) of the Piazza Vittorio Veneto.
He said the world “must say no to the economic model that chases after capital and production.”
The spark for the pessimism about the economy and society has been not just the lack of economic growth in Italy and the European Union, but also the possibility that Greece may end up dropping out of the EU because it cannot repay billions of dollars in debt.
That prospect looms despite the extraordinary infusion of $1.8 billion the European Central Bank loaned Greece’s banking system on Friday to assure the financial system would be able to open on Monday.
It was the pope’s first visit to Turin since being elected to his office. His father left Italy in 1928 to find work in Argentina, where the pope was born and lived.
The pope continued, “We must reject an economy we discard all those living in absolute poverty, in Turin fully 10 percent of the population. We must say ‘no’ to a zero birth-rate, in an economy in which we exclude the old, we exclude the young that now have a 40 percent unemployment rate, if we exclude all those disabled that cannot work as ‘disposable.'”
The pope railed against political corruption and he called upon the faithful to reject the economics of inequality that he claimed generates only violence.
He also castigated the weapons industry, claiming that those who manufacture weapons or invest in weapons industries cannot call themselves Christians.
He contemplated the horrors of war and lamented that the Allied powers during World War II had not stemmed the Holocaust by bombing the railroad lines that transported victims to concentration camps like Auschwitz where “Jews, Christians, homosexuals, everybody” were exterminated without mercy.
“What we need is an economic model that organized for the common good, not for the interests of capital and production,” he insisted, returning to the economic theme.
“If I can leave you with one word, it is ‘courage,'” Pope Francis said.
“We can do it together,” he said, imagining “the new identity of a generational social contract” that would reach beyond the young, the senior citizens, and the disabled of Italy to include the new wave of political refugees that the Catholic Church was open to welcoming as they surged from Africa.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands have sought a better life in Europe after fleeing as “boat people” from the war, pestilence and starvation so common across Africa.
Before arriving at the Piazza Vittorio Veneto, he went to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of Turin, to pray before the Shroud of Turin.
In a moving moment at the conclusion of his prayers, Pope Francis touched the base of the display case for the shroud, which was seen by about 1.4 million pilgrims who have traveled for this exposition.
Five years ago, in 2010, WND reported on hundreds of thousands visiting an exposition of the shroud then.
Pope Benedict XVI then was in office, and celebrated Mass.