Red Cross nurse Roberta Capparella talks with Dr. Andrea Manfredi at a free health clinic for the needy in the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square Nov. 13. The clinic offered services for a week in advance of the Nov. 18 World Day for the Poor. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
OFFICE FOR SOCIAL MINISTRY
“Let us care for the poor, in whom we find Jesus, who became poor for our sake (cf. 2 Cor 8:9). He identifies with the poor.” (Pope Francis’ homily on the World Day of the Poor, Nov. 13, 2022)
In 2017, Pope Francis decreed that the Catholic Church worldwide would set aside a Sunday in November as World Day of the Poor to “reflect on how poverty is at the very heart of the Gospel” and the theme “Let us love not with words, but with deeds.”
Indeed, that theme continued to be demonstrated this year in the events surrounding the sixth annual World Day of the Poor. The Vatican health clinic provided free health screenings and medical care Nov. 7-12 in St. Peter’s Square for those without ready access to services such as general check-ups, blood tests, electrocardiograms, flu shots, COVID tests, and screenings for hepatitis C and tuberculosis.
Then on Sunday, Nov. 13, for the first time since the pandemic began in 2019, Pope Francis commemorated World Day of the Poor with a special Mass inside St. Peter’s Basilica attended by a full congregation, including 1,300 poor people and members of organizations that work for and with the poor. After the Mass, the Holy Father offered the participants lunch in the nearby spacious Paul VI audience hall where he personally greeted folks face-to-face.
In his homily for the World Day of the Poor Mass, the pope challenged all to “break through that inner deafness, which we all suffer from, and which prevents us from hearing the stifled cry of pain of the frailest. If our heart is deadened and indifferent, we cannot hear their faint cry of pain, we cannot cry with them and for them, we cannot see how much loneliness and anguish also lie hidden in the forgotten corners of our cities.”
The pope pointed out how troubling world events today such as wars, plagues and natural disasters are impacting so many, especially the poor. But our faith encourages and enables us to remain hopeful, even in the most difficult moments, he said. “Every crisis is a possibility and offers opportunities for growth. Every crisis is an openness to the presence of God, openness to humanity.”
He called on all to be “candles of hope in the midst of darkness” and to constantly ask ourselves the question: “What is the Lord saying to me and what good can I do?”
The Holy Father suggested including the poor in holiday celebrations. He recalled an old Italian tradition where families would leave an empty chair for Jesus at the Christmas dinner table, “believing he will surely come knocking at the door in the person of a poor person in need.” Then Pope Francis followed with a pointed question: “Does your heart have a space for such persons? Is there a place in my heart for such people?”
Pope Francis concluded his homily by reminding all believers that they can “find the strength for all this by trusting in God our Father, who watches over us. We should always repeat this to ourselves, especially at times of greatest trouble: God is a Father, and he is at my side. He knows and loves me; he does not sleep, but watches over me and cares for me. Since he loves us, let us resolve to love him in the most abandoned of his children.”
Here in Hawaii, there are many opportunities to love God by responding to the needs of the abandoned and making space for the poor in our midst. For example, during Hunger and Homelessness week, Nov. 13-20, HOPE Services Hawaii, an affiliate of the Catholic Diocese of Honolulu, helped organize Housing Solutions conferences on Oahu and the Big Island. These gatherings focused on how organizations and individuals can be involved with and make space for persons who have experienced homelessness and can be vital participants in the development and advocacy of housing solutions.
This November, the diocesan Office for Social Ministry is also gathering parish outreach ministries serving vulnerable persons to increase collaboration with community organizations in effectively addressing hunger and houselessness in Hawaii.
For more on how to make space to work together with the poor in building a better future for all in Hawaii, please visit the Office for Social Ministry website,officeforsocialministry.org. There you can also find the full text of Pope Francis’ 2022 World Day of the Poor homily, which concludes with his encouraging words: “Let us seize opportunities to bear witness to the Gospel of joy and to build a fraternal world, or at least a bit more fraternal. Let us commit ourselves courageously to justice, the rule of law and peace, and stand always at the side of the weakest.”