On 29 January, Italy’s leather chain was welcomed to the Vatican in a private audience with Pope Francis. Thanks to the initiative of Mariano Mecenero, president of AICC – Italian Association of Leather Chemists, the Holy Father received the representatives of the chemists together with those of the other sectoral associations that co-organise the next Eurocongress (Vicenza, 18-20 September 2022), or UNIC – Italian Tanneries, ASSOMAC (National Association of Italian Manufacturers of Footwear, Leather Goods and Tanning Technologies), UNPAC (Union of Italian manufacturers of chemical tanning auxiliaries) and the Veneto Leather District.
A very important meeting – explains AICC – also because Pope Francis studied chemistry and grew up in a region dedicated to leather processing, so he knows the problems of the sector well. “Your profession – observed the Holy Father – applies scientific and technical know-how to an artisan activity that has a long tradition, in Italy and other countries such as my home Argentina. When I was young, I studied in a trade school focused on the usage of chemicals, and this brings me closer to your business”.
Pope Francis’ speech addressed thus the social issue and the implications of the pandemic. “I am happy to receive you, for a number of reasons – he said-. First of all, because you are a very specific category of workers, inserted in the large global “system” that offers an original and characteristic contribution to the world. At this moment of economic and social crisis, I take this occasion to express my sympathy and that of the church to all workers. Many of them and many families are living a difficult situation, aggravated by the pandemic. But the pandemic can’t and must not become an alibi that justifies omissions of justice and safety. On the contrary, this crisis can be faced as an opportunity to grow together, in solidarity and in quality of work done”.
At the centre of his speech also concerns about the environmental impact and the importance of working together and sharing scientific culture.
“There is another aspect I wish to speak about with you, because it’s a critical matter and I know it’s one you care about. It’s the environmental impact of activities, such as yours, that use chemicals to treat the materials, such as leather, that then becomes handbags, shoes, and others. Many things we use every day and never think about all the work that went into making them. I ask you to strive to contribute to the common cause. It is another reason why it’s very important to create an association, because knowledge, experiences, and other aspects, are all shared. This is how you grow together and maintain social and environmental responsibility. It is very important! Today we have more environmental knowledge and awareness: we have grown, and it’s a great thing”.
The Holy Father was given some leather gifts, as a symbol of the creativity allowed by this material, including a work of art that recalls the tree of life. The AICC participants in the pastoral visit gave Pope Francis also a cash donation collected for the most needy.