May 18, 1955
Discourse of Pope Pius XII to the Italian National Federation of Farmers
You, dear children, have come here to Rome, representing farm owners of all parts of Italy, to ratify in union your proposal to carry into effect the Christian ideal of your noble occupation. Three times already We have been able to address you, to give you Our encouragement and Our blessing. Today We receive you with pleasure and, looking upon this large representative group, We think also of all those who were unable to accompany you—some two and a half million agricultural workers whom your National Federation unites in more than 10,000 sections. To all We send Our greetings, and We recall with a father’s gratitude the immense accumulation of toil, enterprise and daily courage amidst difficulties of every kind, which makes of your class one of the most substantial social and moral supports of the nation.
Harmony with Catholic Social doctrine
The vast membership of your federation would be enough by itself to show its importance and to mark it out as the most influential professional organization in this field. Because you are responsible for more than 60 percent of the nation’s agricultural produce, how could you fail to exercise a profound influence on the economic life of the country? We are pleased to offer you Our congratulations—all the more so since your work is in accord with the principles of Catholic social doctrine. These are the principles which respond most completely to human life, both in its natural and its supernatural aspects, and which give rise to the search for a solution of the problems emanating from the rapid development of economics and the general conditions of human society. In such a way, with the strength born of daily endurance, you contribute—within the rule of, and in respect for, the established customs—to the building of a world less harsh, less saturated with materialism, less a slave to the constant seeking of mere personal advantage.
You know well that this ideal is difficult to put into practice and that the path to be followed will yet be long and sometimes painful. But if you east a glance at the road traversed from the birth of your federation in 1944 until today, you will find very many reasons for encouragement. Although your continuous increase in membership is especially striking, still more remarkable is the progressive extension of your organization and its activities. It answered, then, a true need and, having grasped the true desires of the farmer, it did not fall short of its promises. Perhaps one of the more outstanding services which it has rendered its members has been to make them fully aware of the part that concerns them in the economic life of the nation. It has invited them to free themselves from a “local loyalty,” sometimes rather tenacious and easily understandable in the worker on the land, who is strongly attached to his own earth and not easily led to lift his gaze to wider horizons.
Social duties of the just man
For a social group as considerable as yours, and engaged in so fundamental a sphere of production, it is essential to keep in touch with the fluctuation of opinion and with the main stream of ideas which are directing the development of the country. It is essential to exercise a useful influence on them not with the sole object of drawing particular advantage therefrom but for the general good itself. Indeed, it is not enough to have just principles nor to apply them to the limited circle of one’s personal life. On the contrary, it is necessary to spread them within one’s environment, to make them of advantage to others also, and to show clearly the worth and the strength of the national interest. Your organization, by giving strength to the sense of solidarity among farm-owners, brings to their activity an increased efficiency and a breadth which are justified by the lofty virtues of their familiar traditions and their attachment to their native soil.
Model of human effort
While today, some persons are ever more fearful, even to excess, of personal risk, and look for security even at the cost of independence, you remain faithful to your vocation which, in a special way, is and will be at all times exposed to risk. But it is exposed to risk precisely because it is the model—at present insufficiently recognized—of human effort, an effort which always gives to the life of nations the guarantee of continuance and fruitfulness.
Doubtless it is not Our office to publish in detail all the positive results achieved through the work of the federation over almost a decade. Nevertheless We take pleasure in mentioning at least some points of special significance. There is, for example, its work in the field of contracts, in the matter of tax reduction, in social benefits with the extension to farm owners of insurance against illness and, with the proposed law, against disability and old age. And in the technical aid economic sphere action has been undertaken for the stabilization and protection of produce in times of emergency.
But rightly were you unwilling to limit your activity to purely economic matters, for the basic problem of the farm family has constantly come up for your consideration. In Our discourse to the federation on February 22, 1952, We said: “Take care...to win over rural youth. Show an affectionate interest in these young people; form them and by special training ready them for their duties as farmers. Lead them to a broader and deeper spiritual and social outlook” (Discorsi e Radiomessaggi, Vol. XIII, p. 482.)
With filial loyalty you listened to those counsels and now you can direct young farmers toward courses of professional and syndical training which will equip them later on to fulfill their noble task with competence and with the assurance that they are equal to their social responsibilities. But within the farm family woman always has, in addition to her role of wife and mother, a part more or less important in the work itself. A farmers’ union should note this and strive to get rural women to take part in the life of the union. You can already view with satisfaction the fruit; of your efforts concerning this point.
In thus making the family the foundation of your economy you will be able to overcome the great temptation of our time, to which so many yield, that is, the temptation to regard a higher living standard and constantly increasing productivity as the fulfillment of man’s desire for prosperity. For even in the economic field the family stands for what is lasting, for what assures the continuance of future generations. Mere abundance of goods at low prices, the mere lightening and lessening of the strain of work are doubtful benefits, as they do not remove anxiety for the future; rather they increase it, in as much as they arouse inordinate desires, and never satisfy man.
Assistance to new land-owners
Attention should also be called to the institutes founded by the federation for the professional training of farmers, to help the formation and development of small estates and to help the farmer in carrying out the points provided for by law. Finally, as many families of farm-workers have recently received or soon will receive a bit of land through the land reform, it has seemed necessary to give them moral and technical support which will ease their period of transition. Consequently a national federation of small-property owners has been instituted which, among other things, promotes the development of cooperatives, a powerful instrument for the preservation and progress of the new rural communities. The field of agrarian economy, thus broadened, will then help, together with other measures, to strengthen the internal commerce of the nation and therefore to provide industrial production with a support, the security of which is unsurpassed and the necessity of which is becoming ever more clear.
We hope that this review, although rapid and incomplete, of the many activities of the National Federation of Farmers may be for you an encouragement and a promise. An encouragement, because in a short time you have obtained results which show a serious spirit of collaboration and a common determination to better substantially the living conditions of the farmer. Is it not consoling for each of you to know that you are not alone in making this effort but are part of a vast, solid, well-directed organization, animated with a dynamism that has given proof of its efficiency?
A look at the future
What a motive for trust in the future! What happy anticipation accompanies you on your journey! If you remain faithful to your principles, your activities will in the course of time take on an even wider scope. New opportunities will be offered you to increase assistance through unions, to multiply the occasions for each of you to contribute to the good of all, to revivify the active love of one’s neighbor, Christian charity, which brings warmth and life everywhere.
The Lord will not fail to help you, to inspire you with the courage and the perseverance which overcomes every obstacle. In prosperity as well as in adversity preserve always a vivid sense of gratitude to God. Is He not the Author of every good, the Dispenser of the most humble earthly realities, without which man could not live, as well as of the most sublime gifts of soul and heart? In such wise, even if dedicated to labors not adorned by external splendor, your personal, family and social life will be elevated to the dignity that surpasses all others the dignity of children of the Heavenly Father, to Whom you can and should entrust yourselves without reserve.
May Divine Providence guide you and pour his favors upon you, upon your families and all those dear to you. As a pledge of these graces and as a testimony of Our paternal affection, We impart to you from the depths of Our heart Our Apostolic Blessing.