2 November 2021 | Message


FAO in Rome

To His Excellency Qu Dongyu
Director-General of FAO
Your Excellency,
At the behest and in the name of the Holy Father, I wish to thank the FAO for
having promoted, in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation
(OIL), this high-level world meeting which focuses our attention on an
increasingly worrying phenomenon, given the recent estimates of international
In fact, even more so when it manifests itself as exploitation, child labour
becomes a scourge that cruelly harms the dignified existence and harmonious
development of the youngest children, considerably limiting their opportunities
for the future, as it reduces and damages their lives to meet the productive and
lucrative needs of adults.
The negative consequences of this tragedy have been exacerbated by the
pandemic, which has led to a growing number of children dropping out of school
and unfortunately falling into the clutches of this form of slavery. For many of
our young brothers and sisters, not going to school means not only missing out
on opportunities that will enable them to meet the challenges of adulthood, but
also falling ill, being deprived of their right to health, because of the deplorable
conditions in which they have to carry out the tasks that are so vilely demanded
of them.
If we consider the agricultural sector, the emergency is even more alarming:
thousands of boys and girls are forced to work tirelessly, in extenuating,
precarious and demeaning conditions, suffering mistreatment, abuse and
discrimination. But the situation reaches its desolate extreme when it is the
parents themselves who are forced to send their children to work, because
without their active contribution they would not be able to support their families.
Mr. Director-General, let this meeting raise a forceful cry to demand that the
competent international and national bodies defend the serenity and happiness
of children! The most profitable investment that humanity can make is the
protection of children! Protecting children means respecting the period of their
growth, allowing these fragile shoots to benefit from the conditions appropriate
to their opening and blossoming. Protecting children also means taking strong
measures to help the families of small farmers so that they are not forced to
send their children to the countryside to increase their income, which is so low
that they cannot support their families with dignity. Finally, protecting children
means acting in such a way that horizons are opened up for them as free,
honest and caring citizens.
How important it would be for an appropriate and effective legal system, both
international and national, to defend and protect children from this harmful
technocratic mentality that has taken over the present. To this end, there must
be more people and associations at all levels working to ensure that the desire
for excessive profit that condemns children and young people to the brutal yoke
of labour exploitation gives way to the logic of care. In this sense, we need to
denounce, educate, raise awareness and convince those who have no qualms
about enslaving children with unbearable burdens to see further and deeper,
overcoming the selfishness and compulsive consumerism that end up devouring
the planet, forgetting that its resources must be preserved for future
Your Excellency, if we aspire to ensure that our society enjoys the dignity that
ennobles it, if we want law to triumph over arbitrariness, we must ensure that
our children and young people have a present free of labour exploitation. And
this will only be possible if we make a concerted and resolute commitment to
ensure that they pursue and cultivate their dreams, play, prepare and learn.
Then the way will be opened to a bright future for the human family. I have no
doubt that today’s event and the current International Year for the Elimination of
Child Labour will contribute to this.
In reiterating the desire of the Holy See and the commitment of the Catholic
Church and her institutions to ensuring that the international community does
not cease to fight in resolutely, jointly and decisively against the scourge of
labour exploitation of children, I invoke upon you, Mr. Director General, and
those who work to free children and young people from every adversity, the
blessing of God Almighty.
Vatican City, 2 November 2021
Cardinal Pietro Parolin
Secretary of State