Category: World / May 1, 2013 12:34 PM EDT
Pope Francis criticized high unemployment on Wednesday (May 1), blaming a society seeking ''selfish profits'' over ''social justice''.
The leader of the Roman Catholic Church spoke as thousands rallied in Italy and across Europe against austerity measures and harsh government spending cuts.
"Work is an element that is fundamental to the dignity of a person," Pope Francis said in an address to tens of thousands of people packed into St. Peter's Square for his weekly general audience.
"Work, to use an image, "anoints" us with dignity, fills us with dignity, makes us similar to God, who has worked and still works, who always acts. It gives us the ability to maintain ourselves, our family, to contribute to the growth of our nation. And here I think of the difficulties which, in various countries today, afflicts the world of work and business; I think of how many, and not just yo ung people, are unemployed, often just because of a purely economic conception of society, which seeks selfish profit beyond the parameters of social justice," the pope said, speaking in Italian.
Austerity measures imposed to tackle Europe's debt crisis have helped push unemployment to record levels.
According to the most recent figures released by the European Central Bank, the number of jobless people in the countries sharing the euro currency, or euro zone, hit a record 12.1 percent.
Italy's unemployment rate is 11.5 percent and youth unemployment is nearly 40 percent nationwide - and higher in some southern regions.
In Spain, the unemployment rate stands at a record 27 percent.
Francis also called for "a decisive choice to combat people-trafficking including slave labor".
The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates almost 21 million people worldwide are victims of slavery or forced labor. Almost half are thought to be trafficked, either across borders or within their own countries.
Video Source: Reuters