Pope: the senselessness of war generates poverty

Francis’s message for the Sixth World Day of the Poor on 13 November 2022 was released today, centred on the theme “For your sakes Christ became poor”. For the pontiff, the poor must be approached “as a brother or sister who lends a hand to help me shake off the lethargy into which I have fallen.”

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – In his message for the Sixth World Day of the Poor, Pope Francis asks how a proper response can be provided to the millions of women, children and seniors left “in the grip of uncertainty and instability”, especially now that the war in Ukraine has “been added to the regional wars that for years have taken a heavy toll of death and destruction”.

The theme of the papal message – “For your sakes Christ became poor” – is taken from Saint Paul (2 Cor 8:9) to mark the day – Sunday, 13 November 2022 – in which the Church urges the faithful to reach out to the poor across the world.

While the heart of this event is the rediscovery of the evangelical paradox whereby there is a form of poverty that enriches man, in the face of the tragic images that continue to arrive from Ukraine we cannot but come to reach out to those who suddenly lose everything they held dear.

“What great poverty is produced by the senselessness of war!” Francis writes. “Wherever we look, we can see how violence strikes those who are defenseless and vulnerable. We think of the deportation of thousands of persons, above all young boys and girls, in order to sever their roots and impose on them another identity.

“Once more the words of the Psalmist prove timely. Contemplating the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the Hebrew youth, he sang: “By the rivers of Babylon – there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.  On the willows there we hung up our harps. For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors for mirth… How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (Ps 137:1-4).

The pope is pleased with the great show of solidarity by peoples and families who opened their doors “to welcome millions of refugees from wars in the Middle East, Central Africa and now Ukraine.” Yet, he also notes that,” the longer conflicts last, the more burdensome their consequences become.

“The peoples who offer welcome find it increasingly difficult to maintain their relief efforts; families and communities begin to feel burdened by a situation that continues past the emergency stage. This is the moment for us not to lose heart but to renew our initial motivation. The work we have begun needs to be brought to completion with the same sense of responsibility.”

“As members of civil society, let us continue to uphold the values of freedom, responsibility, fraternity and solidarity. And as Christians, let us always make charity, faith and hope the basis of our lives and our actions.”

This is precisely the purpose of the World Day of the Poor, established by Francis at the end of the Jubilee of Mercy. “Where the poor are concerned, it is not talk that matters; what matters is rolling up our sleeves and putting our faith into practice through a direct involvement, one that cannot be delegated. At times, however, a kind of laxity can creep in and lead to inconsistent behaviour, including indifference about the poor.”

For the pontiff, the problem is not money itself, but making it the main purpose of one's life. “Nothing worse could happen to a Christian and to a community than to be dazzled by the idol of wealth, which ends up chaining us to an ephemeral and bankrupt vision of life.

As for the ways to express one’s solidarity, Pope Francis urges the faithful to beware of welfarism and activism for their own sake; instead, we should show “sincere and generous concern that makes us approach a poor person as a brother or sister who lends a hand to help me shake off the lethargy into which I have fallen.”

Indeed, the Gospel of Jesus teaches us the paradox of a form of poverty that makes us rich. Since “Christ became poor for our sakes, our own lives are illumined and transformed, and take on a worth that the world does not appreciate and cannot bestow.”

Likewise, “if we want life to triumph over death, and dignity to be redeemed from injustice, we need to follow Christ’s path of poverty, sharing our lives out of love, breaking the bread of our daily existence with our brothers and sisters, beginning with the least of them, those who lack the very essentials of life. This is the way to create equality, to free the poor from their misery and the rich from their vanity, and both from despair.”

In concluding his message, Francis turns to Charles de Foucauld, the "universal brother" who left all his riches to live among the Tuareg in the Sahara, whom he proclaimed saint a few weeks ago.

“Let us not despise the poor,” de Foucauld wrote, nor “the little ones, the workers; not only are they our brothers and sisters in God, they are also those who most perfectly imitate Jesus in his outward life.” Hence, “Let us never cease to be poor in everything, brothers and sisters to the poor, companions to the poor; may we be the poorest of the poor like Jesus, and like him love the poor and surround ourselves with them”.