We prepare to mark the 6th World Day of the Poor on Sunday, 13th November (a Day established by Pope Francis in his Apostolic Letter “Misericordia et Miser” in 2016, to celebrate the end of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy). This day has been an important focus point for advocacy and action every year since then. Its aim after all is to encourage the Church to “go out” into the streets to encounter poverty in its different forms and to alleviate the suffering, as well as addressing the core drivers and advocating for change. We can discover a poverty that sets us free.
Message by Pope Francis for 6th World Day of Poverty
For your sakes Christ became poor (cf. 2 Cor 8:9)
In this year’s message for the Day, Pope Francis reminds us that from the very early times of the Church, attention to the needs of the poor was a feature of the Christian community, as shown by St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. In that letter, the Apostle asks the local Christian community to take up a special collection for the community in Jerusalem, which is suffering great hardship due to a food shortage, as “a sign of love, the love shown by Jesus himself”.
Pope Francis writes that just when it looked as if the world was emerging from the pandemic and showing signs of an economic recovery, just when it seemed that “a patch of blue sky was opening that, without detracting from our sorrow at the loss of our dear ones, promised to bring us back to direct interpersonal relations, and to socialising with one another once more without further prohibitions or restrictions” a new catastrophe appeared on the horizon, destined to impose on our world a very different scenario – the war in Ukraine, added to regional wars that have been ongoing for years have taken a heavy toll of death and destruction.
It is in this situation of great conflict, we are marking the Sixth World Day of the Poor.
Pope Francis mentions the generosity that in recent years that has led entire populations to open their doors to welcome millions of refugees from wars in the Middle East, Central Africa and now Ukraine. However, the longer the 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.
It is not a question, then, of approaching the poor with a “welfare mentality”, as often happens, but of ensuring that no one lacks what is necessary. It is not activism that saves, but 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”.
A form of poverty that makes us rich
Pope Francis states that there is an urgent need to find new solutions that can go beyond the approach of those social policies conceived as “a policy for the poor, but never with the poor and never of the poor, much less part of a project that brings people together” (Fratelli Tutti, 169). We need instead to imitate the attitude of the Apostle, who could write to the Corinthians: “I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance” (2 Cor 8:13).
Pope Francis speaks of a paradox for today: “there exists a form of poverty that can make us rich!” It is the message that true wealth does not consist in storing up “treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break in and steal” (Mt 6:19), but rather in a reciprocal love that leads us to bear one another’s burdens in such a way that no one is left behind or excluded.
The message of Jesus shows us the way and makes us realise that there is a poverty that humiliates and kills, and another poverty, Christ’s own poverty. A poverty that sets us free and brings us peace.
Jesus’s words are clear: if we want life to triumph over death and dignity is 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.
May this 2022 World Day of the Poor be for us a moment of grace. May it enable us to make a personal and communal examination of conscience and to ask ourselves whether the poverty of Jesus Christ is our faithful companion in life.
See the full text of the Message given by Pope Francis Message for World Day of Poor 2022
‘Sheltering’ – a new sculpture by Timothy Schmaltz
A few moments before his Wednesday General Audience (9 November 2022), Pope Francis unveiled a new sculpture in St. Peter’s Square dedicated to the homeless. It’s a life-size bronze statue titled “Sheltering” by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz, known especially for his “Angels Unawares” sculpture of migrants and refugees installed in a corner of the square.
The new sculpture depicts a homeless person being covered by a blanket pulled over him by a flying dove. It seeks to promote the Vincentian Family’s “13 Houses Campaign” to provide material and spiritual help to people suffering from homelessness, as the Church prepares to celebrate the 6th World Day of the Poor.
Commenting on the unveiling of “Sheltering”,” Mark McGreevy, FHA coordinator and President of the Depaul International Group , said that the statue compels us to be aware of the homeless people around us. “Before we can solve homelessness, we have to understand it”, he explained.
About the Artist
Timothy Schmalz has spent 25 years sculpting large-scale works in bronze that are installed all over the world, including churches in Rome and in the Vatican. Much of his artwork focuses on timely issues of social justice, including homelessness, poverty, migration, and human trafficking. He is known especially for his lifelike “Homeless Jesus”, showing Jesus as a homeless person, sleeping on a park bench in Toronto, Canada, and the “Angels Unawares” , which was installed in the corner of St. Peter’s square and blessed by the Pope in 2019. The power of art, Mr. Schmalz said in an interview with Vatican News earlier this year, is “to create awareness in a very subtle and beautiful way to a whole society.”
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