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Pope Francis Suggests ‘Universal Basic Wage’ In Letter: ‘So Human And So Christian … No Worker Without Rights’
Pope Francis waves to the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square for the general audience on June 13, 2018 in Vatican City, Vatican.
Franco Origlia/Getty Images

In an Easter letter to “brothers and sisters of popular movements and organizations,” Pope Francis wrote about the struggles of the poor and “marginalized,” and offered prayer and blessings to them.

The letter also appeared to cast a negative light on the world as it currently operates.

For example, Francis wondered in writing about the possibility of a “universal basic wage,” specifically because those who work “on your own or in the grassroots economy” are “hit … twice as hard” by economic hardship (emphasis added):

I know that you have been excluded from the benefits of globalization. You do not enjoy the superficial pleasures that anesthetize so many consciences, yet you always suffer from the harm they produce. The ills that afflict everyone hit you twice as hard. Many of you live from day to day, without any type of legal guarantee to protect you. Street vendors, recyclers, carnies, small farmers, construction workers, dressmakers, the different kinds of caregivers: you who are informal, working on your own or in the grassroots economy, you have no steady income to get you through this hard time … and the lockdowns are becoming unbearable.

This may be the time to consider a universal basic wage which would acknowledge and dignify the noble, essential tasks you carry out. It would ensure and concretely achieve the ideal, at once so human and so Christian, of no worker without rights.

Francis referred to the “brothers and sisters” as “social poets,” as they “create admirable solutions for the most pressing problems afflicting the marginalized.”

The Pope also appeared to criticize free market “solutions,” as well as state safety nets:

I know that you nearly never receive the recognition that you deserve, because you are truly invisible to the system. Market solutions do not reach the peripheries, and State protection is hardly visible there. Nor do you have the resources to substitute for its functioning. You are looked upon with suspicion when through community organization you try to move beyond philanthropy or when, instead of resigning and hoping to catch some crumbs that fall from the table of economic power, you claim your rights.

“You often feel rage and powerlessness at the sight of persistent inequalities, and when any excuse at all is sufficient for maintaining those privileges,” Francis wrote, adding that the individuals to whom he directed his letter don’t simply give up and complain, but get to work with “resilience.”

Francis wrote kindly about women in soup kitchens, small farmers who aren’t “exploiting … needs,” as well as the sick and elderly, who he said aren’t seen “in the news.”

The Pope offered encouragement to the members, telling them that after the COVID-19 “storm” has passed, they have the wisdom needed to feel the suffering of others.

Finally, Francis noted that he hopes this crisis will shake up the world:

I hope that this time of danger will free us from operating on automatic pilot, shake our sleepy consciences and allow a humanist and ecological conversion that puts an end to the idolatry of money and places human life and dignity at the centre. Our civilization — so competitive, so individualistic, with its frenetic rhythms of production and consumption, its extravagant luxuries, its disproportionate profits for just a few — needs to downshift, take stock, and renew itself.

You can read the full letter from Pope Francis here.

The COVID-19 pandemic also hung over the Pope’s Easter Sunday message in which he talked about the elderly and sick “who are alone,” and families who didn’t get to say goodbye to their loved ones.

“For many, this is an Easter of solitude lived amid the sorrow and hardship that the pandemic is causing, from physical suffering to economic difficulties,” Francis said.

To doctors, nurses, and other essential workers, Francis gave thanks.

“…grant strength and hope to doctors and nurses, who everywhere offer a witness of care and love for our neighbors, to the point of exhaustion and not infrequently at the expense of their own health,” Francis said. “Our gratitude and affection go to them, to all who work diligently to guarantee the essential services necessary for civil society, and to the law enforcement and military personnel who in many countries have helped ease people’s difficulties and sufferings.”

Francis also offered reassurance, quoting Jesus: “I have risen and I am with you still!”

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