Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Speaking to members of the International Federation of Christian Voluntary Workers ahead of International Volunteer Day (5 December), Pope Francis told them that they are "witnesses of charity, peacemakers, artisans of justice and solidarity," working among the poor who "cannot become an opportunity for gain", including those "fleeing war and persecution because of their faith," as well as among migrants with whom they "promote ways for harmonious coexistence among peoples and cultures."
In his address, the pope urged those present to fight "the structural causes of poverty, inequality, joblessness, homelessness, and the denial of social and labour rights," describing the "economic system that plunders nature" as one of the "root causes" of poverty.
Those who suffer, whatever the cause, need solidarity and generosity. Christian volunteers project an "image of a Church that dons an apron and bends to serve brothers in difficulty;" they are the "living proclamation of Christ's tenderness, who walks with humanity of every age".
In thanking them "for what you do and how you do it", the pope stressed that "there is much need to bear witness to the value of doing something for nothing in return. The poor cannot become an opportunity for gain! Poverty today has changed face and some of the poor have different expectations. They aspire to be leaders, organise themselves, and above all practice the solidarity that exists among those who are suffering, among those at the bottom. You are called to recognise the signs of the times and become a tool to help the poor take a leading role."
"Solidarity with the poor is to think and act in terms of community, making everyone's life a priority over the appropriation of property by some. It is also fighting the structural causes of poverty, inequality, joblessness, homelessness, the denial of social and labour rights. Solidarity is a way to make history with the poor, avoiding allegedly altruistic works that reduce the other to passivity."
"An economic system that plunders nature is among the main causes of poverty. I am thinking in particular about deforestation, but also environmental disasters and the loss of biodiversity. We must reiterate that creation is not some property we can dispose of as we wish; it is even less the property of a few. Creation is a wonderful gift that God entrusted to us for safe keeping and use for the benefit of all, respectfully. Therefore, I encourage you to continue in your commitment to safeguard creation as everyone's heritage, to be handed over to future generations in all its beauty."
"Many of the countries where you operate know the scandal of war. Working for the development of peoples, you also work together to make peace, looking with persevering tenacity to disarm minds, bringing people together, and building bridges between cultures and religions. Faith will help you do this even in the most difficult countries, where the spiral of violence seems to leave no room for reason. Your work in refugee camps is a sign of peace and hope. Here you meet desperate people, with faces marked by oppression, children who are hungry for food, freedom and a future. How many people in the world have fled the horrors of war, or are persecuted for their faith, forced to abandon their homes, their places of prayer, their lands, their dear ones! How many broken lives! How much pain and destruction! In the face of all this, the disciple of Christ does not pull back, does not turn the other way, but tries to take some of the burden from people who are suffering through his closeness and evangelical welcome."
"I am thinking also about migrants and refugees, who try to leave behind harsh living conditions and all sorts of dangers. Everyone - governments, NGOs and church communities - has to cooperate in order to promote ways to achieve harmonious coexistence among various peoples and cultures. Migratory movements call for appropriate ways to receive people so that migrants are not left at the mercy of the sea and gangs of unscrupulous traffickers. At the same time, states must engage in active collaboration to regulate and manage in an effective way these phenomena."
"Dear brothers and sisters, in more than 40 years,, volunteers have worked in your Federation as true witnesses of charity, peacemakers, artisans of justice and solidarity. I encourage you to continue with joy on this path of fidelity to man and God, placing the person of Jesus ever more in the centre. Every day, he will help you a lot to find time for a personal encounter with God in prayer. This shall be your strength whenever you face hardships, disappointments, loneliness, and misunderstandings".