VATICAN CITY – All workers should feel welcomed by the Church and know that their needs and problems are taken seriously, Pope Francis said.

In fact, labor and employment are experiencing "a phase of transformation that needs to be accompanied," he told members of Italy's Movement of Christian Workers during an audience at the Vatican Dec. 9.

"Social inequalities, forms of slavery and exploitation, family poverty due to the lack of work or poorly paid work are realities that must be listened to in our Church communities. They are more or less forms of exploitation – let us call things by their real name," he said.

The movement, which was celebrating the 50th anniversary of its official establishment, promotes the Church's teachings and Christian values in society, in the world of work and in government policies.

Pope Francis asked members to make a special commitment to bringing the concerns and problems of workers to the many levels of the Church community.

"It is important that workers feel at home in parishes, associations, groups and movements; that their problems are taken seriously, that their call for solidarity can be heard," the Pope told them.

"I urge you to keep your minds and hearts open to workers, especially the poor and defenseless; to give voice to the voiceless; to not worry so much about your members, but to be leaven in the social fabric of the country, a leaven of justice and solidarity," he said.

The Pope encouraged the movement to reject all forms of exploitation and actively offer a response to today's situations.

"No one should feel excluded from work. Do not fail in your efforts to promote employment for women, to encourage young people to enter the workforce with decent contracts and not starvation wages, to safeguard time and 'breathing space' for the family, for volunteering and for nurturing relationships," the Pope said.