Featured News
View our Vocations Brochure
Home / Catholic Social Teaching

Catholic Social Teaching

Do not turn your face away

Do not turn your face away

On the 13th June (Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, Patron of the Poor) Pope Francis published his Message for the 7th Annual World Day of the Poor, on Sunday 19th November, 2023.  The theme for this year’s Message is:  “Do not turn your face away from anyone who is poor” (Tob 4:7)  This Message is a reflection on the Book of Tobit, a little-known text of the Old Testament, yet one that is full of wisdom.

As with each Message issued by Pope Francis with a specific theme, the re-reading and contemplation of its content enriches our lives and can inform the way we can live to bring about change. See World Day of the Poor 2023

Those made poor were very close to the heart of Nano Nagle, and the impetus for all she was inspired to do to change the status quo and to enable people to become the advocates for their own progress, and the progression of others to a better life.  The action by Tobit of sharing his table with the poor is reminiscent of Nano’s action on the first Christmas in their new community, when they invited those living in poverty to share their table.

Pope Francis writes:

Our daily efforts to welcome the poor are still not enough. A great river of poverty is traversing our cities and swelling to the point of overflowing; it seems to overwhelm us, so great are the needs of our brothers and sisters who plead for our help, support and solidarity. For this reason, on the Sunday before the Solemnity of Jesus Christ King of the Universe, we gather around his Table to receive from him once more the gift and strength to live lives of poverty and to serve the poor. 

Our ‘Calling’ to become personally involved

Tobit, in his time of trial, discovers his own poverty, which enables him to recognise others who are poor. He is faithful to God’s law and keeps the commandments, but for him this is not enough. He can show practical concern for the poor because he has personally known what it is to be poor. His advice to Tobias thus becomes his true testament: “Do not turn your face away from anyone who is poor” (4:7).

In a word, whenever we encounter a poor person, we cannot look away, for that would prevent us from encountering the face of the Lord Jesus. Let us carefully consider his words: “from anyone who is poor”. Everyone is our neighbour. Regardless of the colour of their skin, their social standing, the place from which they came, if I myself am poor, I can recognise my brothers or sisters in need of my help. We are called to acknowledge every poor person and every form of poverty, abandoning the indifference and the banal excuses we make to protect our illusory well-being.

What the poor need is certainly our humanity, our hearts open to love. Let us never forget that “we are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voice to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them” (Evangelii Gaudium, 198).

Fratelli Tutti: On Fraternity & Social Friendship

The Good Samaritan

Pope Francis signed his new encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, on Saturday 3 October 2020 during a visit to Assisi. The phrase ‘Fratelli Tutti’is taken from the writings of St. Francis, one of the major inspirations for Pope Francis’ third encyclical, on fraternity and social friendship. The full text of the encyclical, the third of Pope Francis’ pontificate was released on Sunday 4 October, the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi.  See “Fratelli Tutti: On Fraternity and Social Friendship”. 

See also this post from the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference contains the full text of the encyclical letter and some useful links and resources: HERE

The Encyclical aims to promote a universal aspiration toward fraternity and social friendship. Beginning with our common membership in the human family, from the  acknowledgement that we are brothers and sisters because we are the children of one Creator, all in the same boat.

The Document on Human Fraternity signed by Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in February 2019 is an inspirational influence cited many times in the Encyclical, which opens with  a brief introduction and is then divided into eight chapters. The Encyclical gathers – as the Pope himself explains – many of his statements on fraternity and social friendship, arranged, however, “in  a broader context of reflection” and complemented by “a number of letters, documents” sent to Francis by “many individuals and groups throughout the world”.

Some background

In 1931, the social encyclical Quadragesimo anno was published by Pope Pius XI now almost a century ago. It was written as the Great Depression was raging, Benito Mussolini was firmly in control in Italy, and Adolph Hitler was moving inexorably towards power in Germany.

In the encyclical, Pius XI laid out the insufficiencies of both free-market capitalism and socialist communism and tried to sketch a third way, rooted in traditional Catholic social teaching but sensitive to the realities of the time.  “Time will tell what impact Fratelli Tutti may have, but the parallels are striking.  So writes John L. Allen Jr. is the editor of Crux, specializing in coverage of the Vatican and the Catholic Church.

“This is Francis’s third encyclical letter, after Lumen Fidei in 2013 (a text largely prepared under Pope emeritus Benedict XVI) and Laudato Si’ in 2015, and by far his most comprehensive. One has the sense it’s almost this pope’s social and political testament, an encapsulation of his entire papacy in a little over 40,000 words”.

Pope Francis tells us in  paragraph 7 that he began the letter even before the current Covid-19 crisis erupted.

The influence of St Francis

“Francis inspired these pages,” said Pope Francis about St. Francis of Assisi in the opening section of his new encyclical letter. Recalling that St. Francis inspired the pope to write his last encyclical letter in 2015, “Laudato Sí, on Care for Our Common Home,” Francis situates this current teaching document again within the framework of Franciscan spirituality and theology. He also traveled to Assisi on the 3rd October 2020 to commemorate the Feast of St. Francis and officially sign this new encyclical.

In the final chapter of the Encyclical, the pope appeals to all religious believers, regardless of their tradition, to be agents of reconciliation, recognizing the fundamental commitment we all have to promote the common good.

See also: https://presentationsistersne.ie/fratelli-tutti/



View our Vocations Brochure