ROME — Pope Francis urged businesses to refrain from laying off workers during the coronavirus pandemic, insisting that solidarity is what is needed during the crisis.
Confronted with the news that many businesses are firing large numbers of workers due to financial troubles caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the pope said in an interview via Skype Sunday that businesses need to find “concrete solutions” to the economic crisis but that “‘every man for himself’ is not the answer.”
“The solution for a company is not to fire people to save itself,” Francis said. “Rather than firing people, we need to welcome them and make them feel there is solidarity in our society.”
“Grand gestures are what are needed now,” the pontiff said, just days after announcing that this week he will bring together officials of the Vatican’s department of Integral Human Development “to start studying measures for the day after the pandemic.”
The pope also expressed his admiration and appreciation for healthcare workers who are personally engaged in the battle with the coronavirus, calling them “next-door saints.”
“I admire them. They teach me how to commit, and I thank them for their testimony,” he said. “There are doctors, nurses, volunteers who have to sleep on stretchers because there are no more beds in the hospital and they cannot go home — that’s the life they lead.”
On Monday morning, Francis offered special prayers for those who are unable to work and earn money during the coronavirus lockdown.
“Let us pray today for those persons who are beginning to experience economic problems due to the pandemic, because they cannot work. All of this affects the family,” the pope tweeted Monday.
Many Italians have been without work since March 9, when Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte declared all of the Italian republic a “red zone,” confining people to their homes except for proven need.