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What did Pope Francis mean on Easter Day 2020?

On Easter Day, the 12th April 2020, Pope Francis sent a message to ‘our brothers and sisters in social movements and organizations’, during which he said this: 

… I know that you have been excluded from the benefits of globalization. You do not enjoy the superficial pleasures that anesthetize so many consciences, yet you always suffer from the harm they produce. The ills that afflict everyone hit you twice as hard. Many of you live from day to day, without any type of legal guarantee to protect you. Street vendors, recyclers, carnies, small farmers, construction workers, dressmakers, the different kinds of caregivers: you who are informal, working on your own or in the grassroots economy, you have no steady income to get you through this hard time … and the lockdowns are becoming unbearable. This may be the time to consider a universal basic wage which would acknowledge and dignify the noble, essential tasks you carry out. It would ensure and concretely achieve the ideal, at once so human and so Christian, of no worker without rights. …



Fraternally,  Francis
Vatican City, Easter Sunday, 12 April 2020

A question: Was he referring to a national or global statutory minimum wage, or was he referring to Basic Income? Comment would be welcome.

To read the full text of the Pope’s message, click here.




About Malcolm Torry

Malcolm Torry has written 23 articles.

The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.


  • Sean Matthew

    Given that a Vatican economic adviser was mulling it as a possibility in 2017 and that the pope encouraged world leaders in his actual Urbi et Orbi to consider radical solutions, I do think he is referring to UBI:

    His speech refers to unsalaried women working in soup kitchens, at one point. Evidently, if they receive a wage they aren’t going to derived it directly from their voluntary work.

  • Ward Smith

    I think he meant a regular periodic allowance of trusted trading tokens that all individuals could use to provide themselves with at least the basics of survival in a free market

  • I don’t know and I don’t really care.
    What I’m seeing is that since yesterday a lot more people in Italy are willing to reason about what this “Universal Basic Income” thing really is.

    Best regards.

    — Massimo Modica, promoter of the petition “Istituzione di un Reddito di Base Universale in Italia”

  • The letter was originally written in Spanish and addressed on Easter day to the Encuentro mundial de movimientos populares. It is available in six languages on its website (

    The key sentence, picked as the title on the website and echoed in many reports, says:
    “Tal vez sea tiempo de pensar en un salario universal”.
    Two of the (presumably unauthorized) translations are literal:
    “Talvez seja a hora de pensar em um salário universal”
    “Sans doute est-il temps de penser à un salaire universel”
    Two of them add “basic”:
    “This may be the time to consider a universal basic wage”
    “Forse è giunto il momento di pensare a una forma di retribuzione universale di base”
    And one of them adds “basic” and turns the “salary” into an “income”:
    “Vielleicht ist jetzt die richtige Zeit, über ein universales Grundeinkommen nachzudenken”

    Because of the preceding sentence (“Ustedes, trabajadores informales, independientes o de la economía popular, no tienen un salario estable”), it is is fair to interpret “salario” as remuneration for work, but certainly not just waged work. What is then a “universal” remuneration for work? On the most plausible interpretation, a basic amount paid to all workers, including informal workers, the self-employed and those who suddenly find themselves with very little work or no work at all because of circumstances like the lockdown.

    Conclusion: Pope Francis’s “salario universal” is not quite an unconditional basic income — nor even a universal “participation income” (that would also accrue to those doing only domestic or voluntary work). But it is much closer to a genuine basic income than it is to either a minimum wage or to a means-tested minimum income.

    Muchas gracias, Papa Francisco

    • Sean Matthew

      This is very helpful translation work, thank you Philippe!

      Incidentally, the official Vatican News website (the information service of the Holy See itself) has rendered it as “Universal Basic Wage” for unprotected workers:

      “Pope Francis writes a letter to Popular Movements and community organizations on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic response, calling for the consideration of a possible “Universal Basic Wage

      ”The Pope’s message comes at a time in which the pandemic is devastating the health and lives of so many, and consequently putting millions of jobs on the line and undermining local – and world – economies. In it, he expresses encouragement and solidarity with those Movements who aim to bring change to global systems and structures that exclude a multitude of workers.”

  • Philippe Van Parijs

    PS: The pdf of all six versions of the Pope’s letter can be downloaded from:

  • Jay Pillay

    I recall my own very prejudiced eyes, the first time I heard about UBI. If it takes a pandemic like Covid 19 to force us to look at UBI in a different light, then that’s to be welcomed.

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