Pope John Paul II, touring an economically depressed region in the European heartland Monday, urged unemployed workers to summon audacity in adversity and told convicts to learn from their mistakes.
On the blue-collar day of the papal visit to France, policemen shooed unemployed miners away from the route of John Paul’s motorcade into this city of 96,000 people in the Lorraine region. Recent declines in traditional heavy industries, particularly iron mines and steel plants, have cost about 35,000 jobs in this area of eastern France.
In his homily at a Mass in the imposing Gothic cathedral of nearby Metz, the Pope called for “a new economic restructuring to allow everyone the chance to work and live with dignity.”
In Nancy, the Pope visited a regional synod of Roman Catholics, and among the 450 delegates was a convict from the local prison. The prisoner, who was not identified, had written to the Pope, and on Monday, John Paul responded. Addressing “my brother and sister prisoners,” he wrote:
‘Hopes Seem to Be Sinking’
“Let me encourage you to profit from your present circumstances to recover confidence in yourselves. There is at the core of all of you a dignity that has not been destroyed and a conscience sufficiently alive to recognize what leads to happiness and what drives it away.”
Speaking to synod delegates at the cathedral here, John Paul seconded regional concerns about industrial collapse, noting that “certain human hopes seem to be sinking.”
Unemployment has particularly hurt immigrants in the Lorraine region from other European countries, the Pope observed. Such economic distress, he warned, “can entail the degradation or even the loss of self-respect any man or woman owes to himself or herself.”
“In this case,” he went on, “the situation of immigrants is especially unsure. The lack of prospects . . . is ominous for the young. And new forms of poverty are appearing.”
In confronting such difficulties, he counseled, “what is really decisive is the audacity to undertake things, the inspiration, the patience, the hope.”
The Pope made no specific suggestions for the kind of economic restructuring he envisions, but he suggested it should not be beyond the capacities of a modern Europe to devise such solutions.
“If faith does not dictate ready-made answers,” he said, “it does provide the courage to undertake, to seek the appropriate type of development, taking into account the new European and world solidarities. It invites men to give their support to those who are today the worst, the deprived of every kind, the new poor.”
The 68-year-old pontiff will climax the 40th foreign trip of his 10-year reign today with an address to the European Parliament in the Alsatian capital of Strasbourg. After a stop in the working-class city of Mulhouse, he will return tonight to the Vatican, winding up his fourth and last foreign trip of 1988.