Parents teach Christian values best by example, pope says

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The only way for parents to teach their children the beauty and importance of marriage and of accepting children as a gift from God is through their example, Pope Francis said.
Children “are immersed” in a media and cultural environment extolling virtues and practices that are “at odds with what, until a few decades ago, was considered ‘normal’ but is no longer the case,” the pope told members of the European Parents’ Association.

“Parents thus find themselves constantly having to show their children the goodness and reasonableness of choices and values that can no longer be taken for granted, such as the importance of marriage and the family, or the decision to accept children as a gift from God,” the pope told the group Nov. 11.

In his talk, Pope Francis reiterated the church’s strong support for the right of parents “to raise and educate their children in freedom, without finding themselves constrained in any sphere, particularly in that of schooling, to accept educational programs contrary to their beliefs and values.”

While the culture and its values change, “the needs of the human heart remain the same,” the pope said, and that is the place where parents must start in educating children to be good Christians and responsible citizens.

Pope Francis receives a gift from a member of the European Parents’ Association in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Nov. 11, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

“God himself has planted in our nature an irrepressible need for love, truth and beauty, an openness to others in healthy relationships and an openness to himself as our creator,” he said. “These yearnings of the human heart are powerful allies of every educator.”

Parents must help their children recognize “the beauty of life in this world and grow confident and enthused about the prospect of embarking on the adventure of life, convinced that they too have a mission to carry out, a mission which will bring them great fulfillment and happiness,” Pope Francis said.
To instill that in children, he said, they must know that God loves them.

“When we realize that at the root of our being is the love of God our father, then we see clearly that life is good, that being born is good and that loving is good,” the pope said.

Firm in the knowledge that one is loved by God and is a gift to one’s family gives a person the strength he or she needs to avoid “a demeaning tendency to hoard material goods, a constant concern not to run risks, not to get overly involved, not to get our hands dirty.”

Instead, he said, they learn to see how “life blossoms in all its richness and beauty” when it is shared with others.

That Christian outlook, the pope said, is also the root of a healthy society because it trains young people “in sound and respectful relationships with others, a readiness to cooperate in view of a shared goal, forming them to take responsibility, a sense of duty and the value of sacrifice for sake of the common good.”

Pope Francis asks Mary to ‘convert those who fuel and foment conflict’

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis asked Mary to look mercifully upon the human family, “which has strayed from the path of peace,” and entrusted to her protection the world’s regions and nations at war.
“Queen of Peace, you suffer with us and for us, as you see so many of your children suffering from the conflicts and wars that are tearing our world apart,” the pope said during a prayer service for peace in St. Peter’s Basilica Oct. 27.

“At this dark hour this is a dark hour, mother we submerge ourselves in your luminous eyes, we entrust ourselves to your heart, sensitive to our problems,” he said, looking at an icon of Mary.

With a black-beaded rosary in hand, Pope Francis prayed with cardinals, bishops and delegates of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops, recalling Mary’s strength and initiative from several Gospel scenes the visitation, the wedding feast at Cana, Jesus’ passion and resurrection.

“Now, mother, once more take the initiative for us, in these times rent by conflicts and waste by the fire of arms,” the pope said. “Teach us to cherish and care for life each and every human life! and to repudiate the folly of war, which sows death and eliminates the future.”

Pope Francis asked Mary to “touch the hearts of those imprisoned by hatred, convert those who fuel and foment conflict.”

Pope Francis prays the rosary for peace in St. Peter’s Basilica with members of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican Oct. 27, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

“Queen of all peoples, reconcile your children, seduced by evil, blinded by power and hate,” he said.

The pope also asked her to care for the victims of war: children, the elderly and isolated, the sick and wounded and those forced to abandon their homeland and loved ones due to conflict.

“To you we consecrate our world, especially those countries and regions at war,” the pope said without naming any particular nation or region. “To you we consecrate the church, so that in her witness to the love of Jesus before the world, she may be a sign of harmony and an instrument of peace.”

Present on the altar was icon of Mary, “Salus Populi Romani,” which has been present on the stage of the Vatican audience hall where the assembly of the synod on synodality has been held.

Among the cardinals present for the ceremony was Cardinal Matteo Zuppi of Bologna, the pope’s Ukraine peace envoy and a synod delegate. Ambassadors to the Holy See from many nations also attended.

On the eve of the last working day of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis asked Mary to “help us preserve unity in the church and to be artisans of communion in our world.”

“Make us realize once more the importance of the role we play,” he said, “strengthen our sense of responsibility for the cause of peace as men and women called to pray, worship, intercede and make reparation for the whole human race.”

After Pope Francis’ prayer for peace, the Eucharist was exposed on the basilica’s main altar and a moment for silent prayer in adoration was observed.

Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, led benediction, blessing the people gathered in the basilica by making the sign of the cross with the monstrance, praying “let us adore with living faith the holy mystery of your body and your blood.”

The Eucharist has the power to draw hearts to Jesus, pope says

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – St. Charles de Foucauld, a turn-of-the-19th-century hermit, demonstrates how a life of meekness, tenderness and eucharistic adoration evangelizes, Pope Francis said.

The saint was known to remain in prayer “at Jesus’ feet, before the Tabernacle,” for hours a day, “sure that the evangelizing force resides there and feeling that it is Jesus who will bring him close to so many distant brothers and sisters,” the pope said Oct. 18 at his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

“And do we, I ask myself, believe in the power of the Eucharist? Does our going out to others, our service, find its beginning and its fulfillment there, in adoration?” the pope asked, encouraging everyone to rediscover the sense of adoration before the Eucharist.

Continuing a series of audience talks highlighting saints who demonstrate zeal or passion for evangelization, Pope Francis said St. Charles made Jesus and the poor “the passion of his life” after living his youth “far from God, without believing in anything other than the disordered pursuit of pleasure.”

“The first step in evangelizing,” the pope said, is to “fall head over heels” for Jesus so that love will show in one’s life. If this does not happen, “we risk talking about ourselves, our group, a morality or, even worse, a set of rules, but not about Jesus, his love, his mercy.”

Pope Francis greets visitors at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Oct. 18, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

The pope said he sees this tendency in some new movements that spend a lot of time talking about their organization, their new spiritual path or “vision of humanity,” and “do not know how to talk about Jesus.”

St. Charles understood the importance of the laity in the life of the church and “he reminds us that ‘there need to be lay people close to priests, to see what the priest does not see, who evangelize with a proximity of charity, with goodness for everyone, with affection always ready to be given,’” he said, citing the saint’s writings.

However, the pope said, they need to be “holy lay people” in love with Jesus, not “climbers” in search of something else.

“We priests need so much to have next to us lay people who seriously believe” in Jesus, he said, and who, with their witness, “teach us the way” and help the priest understand he is not an “official” or administrator, but is “a mediator, he is a priest.”

St. Charles is “a prophetic figure for our time,” Pope Francis said.

He demonstrated “the beauty of communicating the Gospel through the apostolate of meekness,” welcomed everyone as a brother or sister and showed “the evangelizing force of tenderness,” Pope Francis said.

“Goodness is simple and asks us to be simple people, who are not afraid to offer a smile,” he said, encouraging Catholics to imitate “God’s style” of being close, compassionate and tender with others.

Pope addresses fears around synod: ‘Not a political gathering’, pope says

By Justin McLellan
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Members of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops are not gathered in Rome to implement a “plan of reformation” but to walk together as a church that discerns God’s will for the present moment, Pope Francis said at the assembly’s opening Mass.

With cardinals from across the world at his side, including 20 new cardinals from 16 nations created just four days prior, the pope urged people to avoid looking at the synod through the lens of “human strategies, political calculations or ideological battles.”

Asking “whether the synod will give this or that permission, open this or that door, this is not useful,” he said at the Mass Oct. 4 in St. Peter’s Square.

Instead, Pope Francis said the primary task of the synod is to “refocus our gaze on God, to be a church that looks mercifully at humanity, a church that is united and fraternal – or at least tries to be united and fraternal.”

The pope acknowledged that some people have fears about the synod, but he asked them to remember that it is “not a political gathering, but a convocation in the Spirit; not a polarized parliament, but a place of grace and communion.”

“The Holy Spirit often shatters our expectations to create something new that surpasses our predictions and negativity,” he said.

Pope Francis gives his homily at the Mass opening the assembly of the Synod of Bishops in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Oct. 4, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Through “synodal dialogue,” the pope said, “we can grow in unity and friendship with the Lord in order to look at today’s challenges with his gaze,” becoming a church “which does not impose burdens” and is “open to everyone, everyone, everyone.”

“The blessing and welcoming gaze of Jesus prevents us from falling into some dangerous temptations: of being a rigid church – a customs office – which arms itself against the world and looks backward; of being a lukewarm church which surrenders to the fashions of the world; of being a tired church, turned in on itself,” he said.

Lay members and ecumenical delegates to the assembly of the Synod of Bishops led the procession into St. Peter’s Square – still decorated with flowers from the consistory that created 21 new cardinals Sep. 30 – followed by priests, bishops and then cardinals. Synod members had participated in a retreat outside Rome Oct. 1-3, during which they reflected on ways to overcome differences of opinion and to listen to each other and to the Holy Spirit.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re was the main celebrant at the altar for the Mass; Cardinals Mario Grech, synod secretary-general, and Robert Prevost, prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, one of the new cardinals, joined him at the altar. The Vatican said some 25,000 people were present in St. Peter’s Square.
Celebrating the Mass on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, a day when Pope Francis also published an apostolic exhortation on the environment, he recalled the story that Jesus told the medieval saint to “repair my church.”

“The synod serves to remind us of this: our mother the church is always in need of purification, of being repaired, for we are a people made up of forgiven sinners,” he said.

St. Francis lived in a time of “struggles and divisions between temporal and religious powers, between the institutional church and heretical currents, between Christians and other believers,” Pope Francis said. But the saint “did not criticize or lash out at anyone.” Rather, he took up the “weapons of the Gospel: humility and unity, prayer and charity.”

“Let us do the same!” urged the pope, noting that the “most fruitful moments of the synod are the moments and prayer and the environment of prayer in which the Lord acts in us.”

After the Mass, Pope Francis individually greeted the 20 new cardinals with him on stage, some of whom will remain in Rome to participate in the synod assembly while others were to return to their dioceses. Cardinal Luis Pascual Dri, a 96-year-old Capuchin friar from Argentina, did not travel to Rome to receive his red hat because of his health.

Praying for vocations means understanding church’s needs, pope says

By Justin McLellan
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – While vocations to the Catholic priesthood and religious life are declining in developed countries around the world, prayers for vocations should not try to “convince” God to send more workers for the church but seek to better understand the needs of its people, Pope Francis said.
Meeting with a group of Rogationists and Daughters of Divine Zeal at the Vatican Sept. 18, the pope praised the example of their founder, St. Hannibal di Francia, who made praying for vocations central to the charisms of the congregations he began.

St. Hannibal, he said, “understood that the first thing to do was pray, certainly not to convince God to send shepherds, as if he did not care for his people, but to let himself be overwhelmed by the deep passion of his paternal and maternal love, to learn – by praying – to be sensitive to the needs of his children.”

Pope Francis speaks to members of the Rogationists of the Heart of Jesus and the Daughters of Divine Zeal during a meeting at the Vatican Sept. 18, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The 19th-century Sicilian saint founded the congregations after drawing inspiration from a passage in St. Matthew’s Gospel, in which Jesus says, “The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” St. John Paul II called St. Hannibal’s desire to dedicate “unceasing and universal” prayer for vocations a “providential intuition” when he declared him a saint in 2004.

Pope Francis said this type of prayer is particularly practiced in eucharistic adoration, where “docile and humble before God, one receives a specific understanding about the sense of his or her own life.”

The pope urged those walking in the path of St. Hannibal to be “specialists” in God, not through abstract theory, but in prayer and charity to communicate God to the world through their example.

“This is your mission,” he told them, “for even today the Lord is calling, and so many young people need credible witnesses and guides who, by showing them the beauty of a life spent in love, will help them to say ‘yes.’”

Charity is motivated by love, not designed to win converts, pope says

By Cindy Wooden
ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia (CNS) – Pope Francis ended his four-day visit to Mongolia where Catholic missionaries began – with charity.

Blessing the new House of Mercy in Ulaanbaatar Sept. 4, the pope insisted that while Catholic charitable and social service activities have attracted Mongolians to the church, the service is motivated by love alone.

Salesian Brother Andrew Tran Le Phuong, director of the House of Mercy, told the pope the facility would offer: a shelter for vulnerable people, especially women and children; a first aid center for the homeless; free laundry and shower facilities; a place where returning migrants and others in need could go for help in connecting to services; and a meeting place to coordinate the variety of Catholic charities operating in the city.

Naidansuren Otgongerel, who took the name “Lucia” when she was baptized, uses prostheses on her arms and legs. But, she told the pope, “I am the luckiest person in the world, because I made the decision to accept fully the love of God, the love of Jesus.”

Pope Francis used his speech to the charity workers and volunteers “to reject certain myths,” including one about why Catholics offer education and health care, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and care for widows and orphans.

A big myth, he said, is that “the Catholic Church, distinguished throughout the world for its great commitment to works of social promotion, does all this to proselytize, as if caring for others were a way of enticing people to ‘join up.’ No!”

“Christians do whatever they can to alleviate the suffering of the needy because in the person of the poor they acknowledge Jesus, the son of God, and, in him, the dignity of each person, called to be a son or daughter of God,” the pope insisted.

The House of Mercy, he said, should be a place “where people of different creeds, and nonbelievers as well, can join efforts with local Catholics in order to offer compassionate assistance to our many brothers and sisters in the one human family.”

Pope Francis greets a child as he arrives at the inauguration of the House of Mercy in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, the final event of his four-day trip to Mongolia before returning to Rome Sept. 4, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Throughout his stay in Mongolia, Pope Francis tried to reassure the government and suspicious Mongolians that Christians were there to help and not to colonize or undermine traditional Mongolian culture.

Works of charity that involve people of different religions or no religion at all, he said, help people see each other as brothers and sisters, giving them a sense of “fraternity that the state will rightly seek to protect and promote.”

“For this dream to come true,” Pope Francis said, “it is essential, here and elsewhere, that those in public office support such humanitarian initiatives, encouraging a virtuous synergy for the sake of the common good.”

The pope also rejected the idea that “only the wealthy can engage in volunteer work” because “reality tells us the opposite. It is not necessary to be wealthy to do good; rather, almost always it is people of modest means who choose to devote their time, skills and generosity to caring for others.”

La Asamblea del Sínodo no será secreta, pero tampoco estará abierta a la prensa, dice el Papa Francisco

Por Cindy Wooden

A BORDO DEL VUELO PAPAL DESDE MONGOLIA (CNS) — El Sínodo de los Obispos no es un programa de televisión ni un debate parlamentario, y sus discusiones no estarán abiertas al público ni a los periodistas, dijo el Papa Francisco.

“Hay una cosa que debemos cuidar, el ambiente sinodal”, respondió el Papa el 4 de septiembre cuando periodistas le preguntaron sobre el acceso a las discusiones de la asamblea del Sínodo de los Obispos que tendrá lugar del 4 al 29 de octubre.

“Esto no es un programa de televisión en el que hablamos de todo. No. Hay un momento religioso, hay un momento de intercambio religioso”, dijo a los periodistas que volaban con él de regreso a Roma desde Mongolia.

Docenas de notas adhesivas con oraciones y peticiones de jóvenes se ven en la pared del stand del Sínodo de los Obispos en un parque en Lisboa, Portugal, durante la Jornada Mundial de la Juventud del 1 al 6 de agosto de 2023. (Foto de OSV News/ Cortesía de la Secretaría del Sínodo)

El proceso sinodal comenzó en octubre de 2021 con una sucesión de sesiones de escucha a nivel parroquial, diocesano, nacional y regional centradas en crear una “Iglesia más sinodal”, donde cada persona se sienta acogida, valorada y llamada a contribuir y a compartir el Evangelio.

Después de que tantos católicos de todo el mundo dedicaran su tiempo y sus oraciones al proceso, una idea inicial era retransmitir en directo los debates generales desde el aula sinodal o, al menos, permitir el acceso a los periodistas.

El Papa Francisco dejó claro en el avión que eso no sucedería. Un resumen oficial de las discusiones del día — sin decir quién dijo qué — será realizado por el comité de comunicación del sínodo, dirigido por Paolo Ruffini, prefecto del Dicasterio Vaticano para la Comunicación.

Más allá del resumen anónimo de los puntos discutidos, los periodistas intentarán entrevistar a participantes para obtener al menos puntos de vista individuales sobre los trabajos sinodales del día.

El Papa Francisco dijo a los periodistas que cada miembro del Sínodo — que por primera vez incluye a mujeres y laicos — dispondría de tres o cuatro minutos para dirigirse a la asamblea. Cada discurso será seguido por tres o cuatro minutos de silencio “para la oración”.

“Sin este espíritu de oración, no hay sinodalidad, es política, es parlamentarismo”, dijo.

Hacer que un comité resuma los debates para la prensa es necesario “para salvaguardar la religiosidad (del sínodo) y salvaguardar de las personas que hablan” pero quizá no quieran hacerlo públicamente, dijo.

“Pero más abierto que eso, no lo sé”, dijo. “Es bueno que esta comisión sea muy respetuosa de las intervenciones de todos y trate de no parlotear, sino de decir las cosas justamente sobre la marcha sinodal que son constructivas para la Iglesia”.

Jesus does not abandon individuals or the church, pope says at Angelus

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Having faith does not mean there will be no difficulties in life, either for individuals or for the church as a whole, Pope Francis said, but it does mean knowing that Jesus is there to give courage and to defeat evil.

“The Lord knows that the boat of our life, as well as the boat of the church, is threatened by headwinds, and that the sea on which we sail is often turbulent,” the pope said Aug. 13, commenting on the day’s Gospel story about Jesus walking on the water toward the disciples whose boat was being tossed about by the wind.

Jesus “does not spare us the hard work of sailing,” the pope told an estimated 15,000 people gathered in the square for the midday recitation of the Angelus. Instead, “he invites us to face difficulties so they too might become salvific places, so Jesus can conquer them, so they become opportunities to meet him.”

“In our moments of darkness, he comes to meet us, asking to be welcomed like that night on the lake” when the disciples were afraid until Jesus reassured them, Pope Francis said.

In biblical times, people thought that large expanses of water were “the haunts of evil powers that man was not able to master,” symbols of chaos and darkness, he said. The disciples probably were not just afraid of sinking but also of being “sucked in by evil.”

“And here comes Jesus, walking on the waters, that is, over the powers of evil,” telling the disciples not to be afraid, the pope said.

Pope Francis greets visitors in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican before praying the Angelus Aug. 13, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

“By walking on the water, he wants to say, ‘Do not be afraid. I put your enemies under my feet’ – a beautiful message – ‘I put your enemies under my feet’ – not people! – not that kind of enemy, but death, sin, the devil – these are the enemies of the people, our enemies,” Pope Francis said. “Jesus tramples on these enemies for us.”

In the Gospel story, Peter gets out of the boat and starts walking on the water toward Jesus, but then gets frightened and starts to sink.

Peter cries out, “Lord, save me!” which Pope Francis said is a “beautiful” prayer that “expresses the certainty that the Lord can save us, that he conquers our evil and our fears.”

Pope Francis asked the people in the square to repeat that prayer together three times: “Lord, save me! Lord, save me! Lord, save me!”

Look to God with childlike wonder, pope says

By Justin McLellan
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Only by shedding feelings of personal greatness and regaining a sense of wonder in God’s love can people welcome Jesus into their hearts and lives, Pope Francis said.
With some 15,000 visitors gathered to pray the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square July 9, the pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading from St. Matthew in which Jesus praises God the Father for hiding “things” from the wise and revealing them to the childlike.

Those things, Pope Francis explained, refer to Jesus’ miracles – restoring sight to the blind and healing lepers – which are “signs of God acting in the world” that are overlooked by the prideful.
God’s love, as reflected through Jesus’ miracles, “is not understood by those who presume to be great and manufacture a god in their own image: powerful, unyielding, vengeful,” he said.

“These presumptuous ones fail to accept God as Father; those who are full of themselves, proud, concerned only with their own interests: these are the presumptuous ones, convinced that they need no one,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis gives his blessing to visitors at the St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican after praying the Angelus July 9, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The childlike who are open to receiving God’s love, however, “have hearts free from conceit and self-love,” the pope explained.

“The childlike are those who, like children, feel needy and not self-sufficient; they are open to God and let themselves be astonished by his works,” he said. “They know how to read his signs, amazed by the miracles of his love.”

Pope Francis urged Christians to ask themselves whether they let themselves stop and be amazed by how the signs of God are working in their lives or if they notice them only in passing.

“Our lives, if we think about it, are full of miracles, full of signs of love, of signs of God’s bounty,” he said. “Before these, however, our heart can also remain indifferent and become set in its ways, strangely unable to be amazed.”

Pope Francis suggested that Christians draw attention to the signs of God’s love in daily life in by “photographing” them in their minds and “printing” them onto their heart to then develop them in their lives through positive actions, so that the “photograph” of God’s love “becomes brighter in us and through us.”

After praying the Angelus the pope recalled “with pain” the recent bloodshed in the Holy Land, where on July 3 Israeli forces launched a two-day ground and aerial attack on the city of Jenin in the West Bank. The Palestinian government reported that 12 Palestinians were killed in the raid and at least 120 were wounded.

“I hope that the Israeli and Palestinian Authorities can resume a direct dialogue in order to end the spiral of violence and open paths of reconciliation and peace,” the pope said.

On World Day of Poor, be poor like those you serve, pope says

By Justin McLellan
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – To recognize and address the poverty of others, Christians must become poor like the figure of Tobit from the Hebrew Bible, Pope Francis said.

Tobit, a blind and elderly man who dedicated his life to the service of others, “can show practical concern for the poor because he has personally known what it is to be poor,” the pope wrote in his message for the November celebration of the World Day of the Poor.

The papal message was published June 13, the feast of St. Anthony of Padua, patron of the poor.  
Christians 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,” Pope Francis wrote. “Regardless of the color of their skin, their social standing, the place from which they came, if I myself am poor, I can recognize my brothers and sisters in need of my help.”

The theme for World Day of the Poor 2023 is a passage from the Book of Tobit: “Do not turn your face away from anyone who is poor.”

“When we encounter a poor person, we cannot look away, for that would prevent us from encountering the face of the Lord Jesus,” Pope Francis wrote.

In his message for the world day, which will be celebrated Nov. 19, Pope Francis listed an array of cultural phenomena that prevent people from caring for the poor: greater pressure to live affluently, a tendency to disregard suffering, virtual reality overtaking real life and a sense of haste that prevents people from stopping to care for others. He offered the parable of the Good Samaritan, who stops to help a man in the street beaten by robbers, to counter the hangups many people have against helping the poor.

The parable “is not simply a story from the past; it continues to challenge each of us in the here and now of our daily lives,” he said. “It is easy to delegate charity to others, yet the calling of every Christian is to become personally involved.”

The pope thanked God for the men and women “of every age and social status” who devote themselves to caring for the poor and excluded, the “ordinary people who quietly make themselves poor among the poor.”

Pope Francis also called for a “serious and effective commitment on the part of political leaders and legislators” to defend the rights enjoyed by all people to food, clothing, shelter, medical care, rest and social services as outlined in St. John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical “Pacem in Terris” (Peace on Earth).

While recognizing the need to pressure public institutions to defend the poor, the pope praised volunteers who serve the common good in a “spirit of solidarity and subsidiarity,” saying “it is of no use to wait passively to receive everything ‘from on high.’”

The pope also pointed to the way poverty is exacerbated by inhumane working conditions, inadequate pay, the “scourge” of job insecurity and by workplace accidents resulting in death. Young people, he said, are also afflicted by a cultural poverty that destroys their self-worth and leads to frustration and even suicide.

He urged people not to fall into “rhetorical excess” or merely consider statistics when speaking of the poor, but to remember that “the poor are persons; they have faces, stories, hearts and souls.”
“Caring for the poor is more than simply a matter of a hasty handout,” Pope Francis said, “it calls for reestablishing the just interpersonal relationships that poverty harms.”

Calling for a care for the poor marked by “Gospel realism,” the pope invited Christians to discern the genuine needs of the poor rather than their own personal hopes and aspirations.
“What the poor need is certainly our humanity, our hearts open to love,” he said.

(Editor’s note: The text of the pope’s message in English can be found at