VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Artisans teach the world that every material thing contains beauty, and that work gives people a little share in the creative action of God, Pope Francis said.
Artisans bring together "the abilities of the hands, the passions of the heart and the ideas of the mind," the pope said Feb. 10 as he met with some 7,000 members of Confartigianato Imprese, an Italian confederation of artisans and small businesses.
While many of the businesses use technology to increase production, "it is important that they do not end up replacing the imagination of men and women, created in the image and likeness of God," the pope said. "Machines replicate, even with exceptional speed, while people invent!"
Leaders of the confederation gave Pope Francis three gifts: a wooden cross that was placed alongside the entrance to a field hospital for victims of COVID-19 in Bergamo, an early epicenter of the pandemic; a chalice made by master goldsmith Carlo Buccio; and a bas-relief of Our Lady of Graces, the patron of Faenza, made by master ceramicist Davide Servadei from the mud that piled up in his studio in Faenza as a result of flooding in May 2023.
"The artisan has an original outlook on reality," the pope said. "He or she has the ability to recognize in inert material a masterpiece even before realizing it. What is a block of marble for everyone else, is a piece of décor for an artisan. What is a piece of wood for everyone else, for an artisan is a violin, a chair, a cornice! The artisan is the first to intuit the destiny of beauty that matter can have. And this brings him or her closer to the Creator."
While consumerism promotes a "throwaway economy," artists and artisans see the value and potential of every created thing, the pope said. "You artisans help us to look at reality differently, to recognize the value and beauty of the material that God has placed in our hands."
Pope Francis asked the artisans and business owners to keep in mind that many people do not have the same opportunity to "bless and thank the Lord" through work, especially creative work.
"There are those who sit idle, there are those who are unemployed and those who are seeking employment," he said. "These are all human situations that need to be healed."
"Sometimes your companies are looking for qualified personnel and cannot find them: do not be discouraged in offering jobs and do not be afraid to include the most fragile groups, namely young people, women and migrants," the pope said.
He also thanked the companies for "breaking down the walls of exclusion toward those who have serious disabilities or are disabled perhaps because of an accident at work, toward those who are kept on the margins and exploited. Every person must be recognized in his or her dignity as a worker."
"Let us never clip the wings of the dreams of those who want to improve the world through work and use their hands to express themselves," Pope Francis said.