Watch out Benedict, or you’ll lose the love of the people! The pope's most recent words encourage young people to think not about finding permanent employment, but about the gospel. 'A steady job isn’t everything; seek god!' was the appeal made by the pope in an address to precarious youth around the world on 6 August, in an open letter officially marking the 16th annual world youth day, scheduled to take place in Madrid between 16 – 21 August 2011. 'Without faith, not even economic security can create 'heaven' on earth,' the pope added.
Who knows what all these unemployed under-25s are thinking. According to the latest data from eurostat, the EU's statistical agency, that’s 19.6% of them across the eurozone, 20.2% in the EU of 27 member states. Who knows what those who have an unstable job are thinking. According to data from the European foundation for the improvement of living and working conditions (EUROFOUND), more than forty million people in Europe, or 22% of workers, suffer from stress-induced depression. These are often linked to factors such as job mobility and precariousness. Or maybe it’s just that they haven’t found that faith yet.
One thing is certain: the public have not taken it well. The pope’s statement has generated a great deal of fuss in the Italian media in particular. He’s even been accused of supporting job instability. Before the Vatican press could be mobilised came the words of the Pope himself, who during Sunday’s Angelus said that 'it is for others, not the church, to enhance the mobility and flexibility of young workers.' He said that he was encouraging young people to be 'non-conformist', to go against society.
The public have begun to lose their patience, especially the British, when they already didn’t want to pay for his trip to the UK. According to a poll of theologians from the think tank Theos, 77% of Brits believe taxpayers should not have to pay. Can you blame them? Latest estimates suggest that the pastoral visit is set to cost a total of ten to twelve million pounds. Maybe meet England’s sexual abuse victims at the hands of priests, of course. Now can he go?
In short, the pope gets around, whether the Brits like it or not – though he comes on an official invitation from the British government. Running from place to place, between declarations and denials, wearing the shoes that earned him the title of 'accessoriser of the year' (for his red leather loafers) from American magazine Esquire in 2007. His newest pair, bright red in colour, were delivered to him in person by Adriano Stefanelli, 'shoemaker to the greats'. One wonders whether he also discussed his look with German journalist Peter Seewald. We’ll know before the year is up; their conversations are to become a book, which, according to the director of the Vatican press Father Federico Lombardi, will be released in German and Italian later this year by the Vatican’s publishing house, Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Amen.