In his message for World Day of the Poor, Francis writes that poverty is caused by sins like selfishness, pride, greed and injustice, whilst society “elevates riches as the primary objective”. Believers cannot limit their concern to providing assistance but need to show "loving attentiveness".
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The message for this year’s World Day of the Poor, on 18 November 2018, will be centred on the theme “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him”.
In it, Pope Francis notes that selfishness, pride, greed and injustice are sins with which poverty was "created". Faced with it, the Christian community is called to get involved in a society that often “elevates riches as the primary objective” driven by a “phobia” against the poor, “bearers of insecurity and instability, detached from the habits of daily life and, consequently, to be rejected and kept afar.”
In the statement released today, Francis starts from the premise “that the Lord listens to the poor who cry to Him”. For this reason, “We can ask ourselves how it is that this cry, which rises to the presence of God, is unable to penetrate our ears and leaves us indifferent and impassive?”
“What we need in order to recognise their voice is silence in which to listen. If we speak too much ourselves, we will be unable to hear them. Often I am afraid that many initiatives, by themselves meritorious and necessary, are intended more to please those who undertake them than to really acknowledge the cry of the poor.”
World Day is meant as a “small answer” by the whole Church “to the poor of every type and in every land lest they think that their cry has gone unheard”. It is meant as a “sign of sharing for those who are in need, that they might experience the active presence of a brother or a sister. It is not delegated power of which the poor have need, but the personal involvement of as many hear their cry. The concern of believers in their regards cannot be limited to a kind of assistance – as useful and as providential as this may be in the beginning – but requires a ‘loving attentiveness’ (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 199) which honours the person as such and seeks out his best interests.”
From this perspective, Francis writes, “On this World Day we are invited to give concreteness to the words of the Psalm: «The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied» (Psalm 22:27).” Thus, “I would like that this year and in the future this World Day be celebrated in the spirit of joy for the rediscovery of our capacity for getting together. Praying together as a community and sharing a Sunday meal is an experience which takes us back to the earliest Christian community”.
Often some initiatives are undertaken for the poor in cooperation with other groups “moved not by faith but by human solidarity”. In fact, “Recognising that the in the immense world of poverty our capacity for action is limited, weak and insufficient leads us to reach out to others so that reciprocal cooperation can reach its objective in a more effective way. We are inspired by faith and by the imperative of charity, but we also know how to recognise other forms of assistance and solidarity which are characterized, in part, by our same objectives, albeit that we do not neglect our proper role which is to lead everyone to God and to holiness. Dialogue among the different forms of experience and humility in giving freely of our collaboration, without seeking the limelight, is an adequate and fully evangelical response which we can all give.”
Faced with the poor, “the last thing we need is a battle for first place”. Instead, “we should recognise with humility that it is the Spirit which solicits from us actions which are a sign of God’s answer and proximity. When we find a way to draw near to the poor, we know that the first place belongs to Him who has opened our eyes and our heart to conversion. The poor have no need of protagonists, but of a love which knows how to hide and forget the good which it has done.”
“Far from the disciples of Christ nourishing sentiments of contempt or pietism towards the poor, they are called to honour them, giving them precedence, out of the conviction that they are a real presence of Jesus in our midst. «As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me» (Matthew 25:40).”
“Here we can see how distant our way of living is from that of the world which praises, follows and imitates those who have power and riches, while at the same time marginalizing the poor and considering them a waste and an object of shame.”
Finally, the pope invites everyone in the Christian community to experience this Day “as a special moment of new evangelization. The poor evangelize us, helping us to discover every day the beauty of the Gospel. Let us not waste this opportunity for grace. Let all of us feel on this day that we are debtors towards the poor because, stretching out our hands reciprocally one to another, a salvific encounter be created which strengthens our faith, renders our charity active and enables our hope to continue secure on the journey towards the Lord who is returning.”
The celebration of the Day, on Sunday 18 November, was illustrated by Mgr Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the promotion of the new evangelisation. At 9.30 am the Pope will meet the poor, accompanied by associations and parish groups, in Saint Peter’s Basilica, where the Holy Eucharist will be celebrated.
Following this, Pope Francis will take part in the lunch in Paul VI Hall with some 3,000 poor people, offered by Rome Cavalieri-Hilton Italia in collaboration with Ente Morale Tabor. At the same time, the many parishes that have joined the initiative, the volunteer centres and some colleges and schools will offer a lunch to the poor, each according to their own possibilities, as a moment of celebration and sharing.