• On April 6, at the Mass in Santa Marta, the Pope returned to direct his thoughts to the incarcerated and to the serious problem of overcrowding in penitentiary institutions, praying that those responsible find solutions.
  • In his homily, he spoke of the poor, victims of the injustice of global economic policies, and recalled that at the end of our lives we will be judged on our relationship with the poor.

In the morning Mass he celebrated and broadcast live this Holy Monday in the chapel of his residence at the Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis prayed in the intention of the Eucharist for the problem of overpopulation in prisons:

“I think of a serious problem that exists in many parts of the world. I would like us to pray today about the problem of overcrowding in prisons.

“Where there is overcrowding – so many people there – there is a danger, in this pandemic, that it will end in serious disaster.

Pray for those responsible, for those who have to make the decisions on this, so that they find a fair and creative way to solve the problem“.

In his homily, Pope Francis commented on the passage from the Gospel of John (Jn 12:1-11) in which Mary, the sister of Lazarus, anointed the feet of Jesus with a precious perfume, provoking the criticism of Judas.

That perfume – said the one who was going to betray the Lord – could be sold and the proceeds delivered to the poor.

The Evangelist points out that he said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief and, since he had the common purse, he took what they put in it.

Jesus replied: “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me”.

The Pope spoke of the poor: there are many, but in their majority they are hidden and we don’t see them because we are indifferent.

Many poor people are victims of financial policies and the structural injustice of the world economy.

Many poor people are ashamed of not having the means and go to Caritas in secret.

We will find the poor in the Last Judgment, said the Pope: Jesus identifies with them; we will be judged by our relationship with the poor.

Full text of the Pope’s homily

(Transcription: Vatican News; translation: Novena)

This passage ends with an observation: “The chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus”.

The other day we saw the steps of temptation: the initial seduction, the illusion, then it grows – step two – and step three, it grows and spreads and is justified. But there is another step: it keeps going, it doesn’t stop. For these ones it wasn’t enough to kill Jesus, but also Lazarus, because he was a witness to life.

But today I would like to pause at a word from Jesus.

Six days before Easter – we are right at the door of the Passion – Mary makes this gesture of contemplation: Martha served – as in the other passage – and Mary opens the door to contemplation.

And Judas thinks about money and thinks about the poor, but not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief and, since he kept the common purse, he took what they put in it.

This story of the unfaithful administrator is always current; it’s always there, even at a high level. Let’s think of some charitable or humanitarian organisations that have so many employees, so many; that have a very rich structure of people and in the end 40% [of donations] reach the poor, because 60% is to pay the salary of so many people.

It’s a way of taking money away from the poor.

But the answer is Jesus. And here I want to stop: “The poor are always with you”. It is a truth: “The poor are always with you”. The poor are there. There are many: there are the poor we see, but this is the smallest part; the great number of poor are those that we don’t see: the hidden poor.

And we do not see them because we enter this culture of indifference that is denialist and we deny: “No, no, they’re not that many, we don’t see them; yes, that’s the way it is…”, always diminishing the reality of the poor. But there are many, many.

Or even, if we don’t enter this culture of indifference, there is a custom of seeing the poor as decorations for a city: yes, they’re there, like statues; yes, they’re there, they can be seen; yes, that old woman begging, that other one… But as if it were something normal. It is part of the ornamentation of the city to have poor people.

But the vast majority are the poor victims of economic policies, of financial policies.

Some recent statistics summarise it this way: there’s so much money in the hands of a few and so much poverty in many, in many.

And this is the poverty of so many people who are victims of the structural injustice of the world economy.

And [there are] so many poor people who are ashamed to show that they can’t make ends meet; so many poor people from the middle class, who secretly go to Caritas and secretly ask and feel ashamed.

The poor are many more than the rich; very, very more… And what Jesus says is true: “Because the poor are always with you”. But do I see them? Am I aware of this reality? Especially the hidden reality: those who are ashamed to say that they can’t make ends meet.

I remember that in Buenos Aires I was told that an abandoned factory, empty for years, was being occupied by some fifteen families who had arrived some months before. I went there. They were families with children and each had taken a part of the abandoned factory to live in.

And looking at them, I saw that each family had good furniture, middle-class furniture, they had a television, but they went there because they couldn’t pay the rent.

The new poor who have to leave the house because they can’t afford it go there. It is this injustice of the economic and financial system that takes them there.

And there are so many, so many, that we will meet at the Trial.

The first question that Jesus will ask us is: “How are you doing with the poor? Have you fed them? When you were in prison, did you visit them? In the hospital, did you see them? Did you help the widow, the orphan? Because I was there”.

And for that we will be judged. We will not be judged by the luxury we live in or the trips we make or the social importance we have.

We will be judged on our relationship with the poor.

But if I ignore the poor today, IF I leave them aside, if I think they’re not there, the Lord will ignore me on the Day of Judgment.

When Jesus says: “You always have the poor with you”, he means: “I will always be with you in the poor. I will be present there”.

And this is not being a communist, it is the centre of the Gospel: we will be judged for this.

Finally, the Pope ended the celebration with adoration and the Eucharistic blessing. Before leaving the Chapel dedicated to the Holy Spirit, the ancient Marian antiphon Ave Regina Caelorum (“Ave Queen of Heaven”) was sung.

(With reporting by Vatican News)

On Novena, more papal homilies from the Casa Santa Marta:

4/4: Santa Marta Mass: Pope hits out at COVID-19 profiteers, reflects on virus of temptation

3/4: In Santa Marta Mass, Pope sounds alarm on future after COVID-19: “Poverty, unemployment, hunger…”

28/3: In Santa Marta Mass, Pope deplores people hungry, families in need due to pandemic

23/3: Pope prays in Santa Marta Mass for economic victims of coronavirus, urges “perseverance and courage”

12/3: Francis deplores “abyss of indifference” towards poor, gives 100,000 euros for attention to vulnerable in virus crisis


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.