As Pope Francis addressed the world for the first time from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica on Wednesday, Feb. 13, Teamsters Joint Council 25 President John T. Coli stood in prayer among 200,000 spectators in the holy square below.
Coli, a practicing Catholic, last visited Rome nearly one year ago to the day on a nine-day pilgrimage with Cardinal Francis George. The International Teamster Vice President accompanied the Chicago Archbishop during his ad limina journey to the Vatican, which occurs every five years, to report to Pope Benedict XVI.
The return to Vatican City this week further solidified Coli’s commitment to the teachings of the Church.
“Since the pope’s rerum novarum of 1891, the Catholic Church has consistently delivered a resonant message on the dignity and vulnerability of the worker, and its teachings can offer real guidance to Teamsters Joint Council 25 in our role to protect the dignity of workers,” Coli said.
“I had the rare honor of attending a Papal Audience with Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Francis George in 2012,” Coli added, “and it was a deeply personal, meaningful and historic opportunity for me to be present in St. Peter’s Square to receive the first prayer of Pope Francis.”
Back in Illinois, Joint Council 25 is continuing its support of the Catholic Labor Network, a religious group active in labor issues and dedicated to upholding the Catholic Church’s social teachings surrounding the economy and organized labor.
Four years ago, the Joint Council stood with the organization in support of Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 encyclical, a labor-focused papal letter entitled “Charity in Truth.” The former leader of the Catholic Church defended the rights of labor unions and worker associations in an inimitable statement on the Feasts of Saints Peter and Paul.
“Through the combination of social and economic change, trade union organizations experience greater difficulty in carrying out their task of representing the interests of workers,” the pope declared. “Workers’ associations that can defend their rights must be honored as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new reforms.”
“In the defense of working men and women everywhere, the Church’s social teachings are as relevant today as they’ve ever been,” Coli said. “Workers are still vulnerable the world over, working conditions are still under attack and the Teamsters must be forever committed to repairing and improving the common good.”
Joint Council 25 encourages all workers to learn more about the Catholic Labor Network, an affiliate of the World Movement of Christian Workers, at www.CatholicLabor.org.