Bishop Kevin Doran has called for “a renewed appreciation of the dignity of work and of every worker” as the world prepares to exit the Covid-19 pandemic.
In his homily for World Peace Day, the Bishop of Elphin said that in Catholic social teaching, work is not just about earning a living. “It is also about having the right to participate.”
He said that when people are denied the opportunity to participate in society, they begin to feel alienated, and this experience of inequality adds to the experience of material deprivation.
The fall out of the pandemic meant that many had come to understand what it means to be deprived of the sense of purpose that comes from going to work.
“Perhaps this temporary experience can help us to understand better the experience of unemployment.”
Referring to Pope Francis’ message for Word Day of Peace, Bishop Doran noted that it identifies three elements as essential for the building of the social covenant and peace: dialogue, especially between the generations, education and work.
Education helps prepare young people to participate in the world of work, he said. But education is not just about gathering information, it is also about maturing as human beings, which only happens in community or in society.
Education is not simply about providing people with answers, he added. “It is far more important that we help people to ask the right questions.”
“We have discovered in the past two years that, for all the benefits of technology, online education has significant limitations, because there is an absence of presence.”
Bishop Doran said one of the particular challenges of the pandemic is that it has “tended to isolate us from one another, and some of us have begun to feel comfortable in our own bubbles and pods and even to see others as obstacles to our well-being”.
The pandemic has brought into sharper focus the need we have to understand one another and to appreciate one another’s gifts.
“Everybody has something to bring to the table,” he said and a particular challenge for the Church is that it is “fast becoming a community of older people where many young people simply don’t seem to feel at home”.
The synodal process requires the Irish Church to “create opportunities for listening and understanding, which will include anyone who wants to be included”, he said.