WASHINGTON (EWTN News/CNA)—Bishops and other Catholic clergy should speak about unemployment and poverty in their homilies, U.S. bishops’ conference president Archbishop Timothy Dolan said Sept. 19.

“Widespread unemployment, underemployment and pervasive poverty are diminishing human lives, undermining human dignity, and hurting children and families,” Archbishop Dolan said. “I hope we can use our opportunities as pastors, teachers and leaders to focus public attention and priority on the scandal of so much poverty and so many without work in our society.”

The archbishop of New York said that 46 million people, 15% of the population, now live in poverty in the U.S. Recent unemployment figures are also “dismal.” Sixteen million children, almost one in four, are growing up in poverty. African-Americans and Hispanics face unemployment and poverty at “far higher rates.”

“For us as bishops, these numbers are not statistics, but people suffering and wounded in their human dignity,” Archbishop Dolan said. “They are parents who cannot feed their children, families that have lost their homes, and jobless workers who have lost not only income, but also a sense of their place in society. For us, each of these persons is a child of God with innate human dignity and rights that deserve respect.”

Economic turmoil takes a “terrible toll” on families and communities, and Catholic dioceses are struggling to meet needs.

Rather than issuing another statement, Archbishop Dolan said, the administrative committee of the bishops’ conference wanted him to ask all the bishops to “lift up the human, moral and spiritual dimensions of the ongoing economic crisis.”

“The best way out of poverty is to work at a living wage,” the archbishop said. Rather than place blame, everyone should accept their personal and institutional responsibility to help create jobs and overcome poverty.

“Individuals and families, faith-based and community groups, businesses and labor, government at every level—all must work together and find effective ways to promote the common good in national and economic life.”

Archbishop Dolan pledged the Church’s solidarity with those who are poor and jobless and help for leaders who assist the poor and jobless by promoting economic growth and fiscal responsibility.

“In these tough economic times, we turn to the God who loves us. We pray for those who need work. We lift up the poor and suffering. We ask God’s guidance for our nation,” he said, calling the present “a time for faith, hope and love.”

Archbishop Dolan noted some helpful materials already exist on the U.S. bishops’ conference website at http://www.usccb.org/about/justice-peace-and-human-development/unemployement-and-poverty.cfm.