~from the Vatican Information Service
In the Paul VI Hall at midday today, the Holy Father received 7,000 leaders and members of "Confartigianato," the Italian Confederation of Artisans which was founded in 1946.
The Pope began his address to them by recalling that the confederation was established "on the principle of free and open membership for all geographical, sectorial and cultural components in the world of craftsmen and small industry, ... and has undoubtedly made a contribution to the construction of the modern Italian State. ... If, until a few decades ago, the artisan brought to mind something old and picturesque, ... today it rather means autonomy, creativity and personalization in the production of goods and services."
After highlighting how work "pertains to the original condition of man," the Holy Father said: "The Church, faithful to the Word of God, does not cease to recall the principle that 'work is for man and not man for work.' She ceaselessly proclaims the primacy of man over the work of his hands, and recalls that the finality of all things - capital, science, technology, public resources and even private property - must be the true progress of the human person and the common good."
Benedict XVI then went on to quote the words used by Servant of God John Paul II in his address to artisans during the Jubilee Year 2000: "You can restore strength and concrete form to those values that have always characterized your activities: the striving for quality, the spirit of initiative, the promotion of artistic qualities, liberty and cooperation, the equitable relationship between technology and the environment, the bond with the family and good neighborly relations."
The Holy Father called on his audience to continue to protect "the artisanal culture of production, which can create great opportunities for economic progress and encounter between men and peoples. As Christians, may it be your commitment to live and bear witness to the 'Gospel of work,' aware that the Lord calls all the baptized to sanctity through their daily occupation.
"On this subject," the Pope added, "St. Josemaria Escriva, a saint of our own times, noted: 'Since Christ took it into His hands, work has become for us a redeemed and redemptive reality. Not only is the background of man's life, it is a means and path of holiness. It is something to be sanctified and something which sanctifies'."
The Holy Father concluded by assuring the members of Confartigianato that "in the school of the Family of Nazareth you will more easily learn how to unite a coherent life of faith with the efforts and difficulties of work, with personal profit and with a commitment to solidarity towards those in need."