Photo: A child wearing a mask waits to receive free food being distributed by the Delhi government in a school to poor people in Ghaziabad, on the outskirts of New Delhi (Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters)

The Vatican is calling on the Church to “keep alive a sense of attention and fraternity towards the most marginalised and disadvantaged”.

– Pope wants to emphasise extent of suffering “to which the Covid-19 pandemic has subjected the entire world”: official

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation, made the invitation at a press conference this morning to launch the 4th World Day of the Poor, which will be held this Sunday November 15 with the theme: “‘Stretch forth your hand to the poor’ (Sir 7:32)”.

In his comments this morning, Fisichella explained that the Pope chose that theme with “far-sighted vision” and “to emphasise the urgency to which the Covid-19 pandemic has subjected the entire world”.

The Vatican official added that the Church’s activities around the World Day of the Poor are designed to give “a concrete sign of assistance and support to the ever-increasing number of families who find themselves in objective difficulty” because of the coronavirus crisis.

– Francis donates 350,000 anti-coronavirus masks to relieve financial impact of pandemic on families, educate young people in responsibility

Fisichella said that the Pope himself has organised various initiatives to make the Day Sunday “more tangible and concrete”.

Those activities of the pontiff’s will include a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in the presence of just 100 people due to the Covid-19 restrictions – people who, nonetheless, have been chosen “to represent symbolically all the poor people of the world who, on this day, particularly need the attention and solidarity of the Christian community”, Fisichella said.

The Vatican official lamented that due to the health crisis the Pope will not be able to enjoy the lunch with the poor in which he has participated on other World Days, nor visit the “field hospital” for the needy the Vatican usually sets up in St. Peter’s Square for the forthcoming commemoration.

However, the Vatican official said that thanks to the generosity of benefactors the Pope will still be able to make some “very simple” gestures of “closeness and attention” to the poor this year.

Those “simple signs” of the Pope’s solidarity this year include a coronavirus testing station for the homeless, donations of at least 5,000 packages of food and other basic necessities to needy parishes, shelters and other Church associations, and the gift of 350,000 anti-Covid-19 masks to young people around Rome, Fisichella explained – that last with the aim of conscientising students “not to underestimate the risks of the pandemic, especially with behaviors that could be harmful once they return from school to their families with the presence of elderly people”.

– Pope tweet: “Generosity that supports the weak… is a condition for a fully human life”

Beyond the Vatican press conference this morning, Pope Francis himself also referred to the imminent World Day of the Poor this Sunday in a message on Twitter.

There the pontiff wrote that “generosity that supports the weak, consoles the afflicted, relieves suffering and restores dignity to those stripped of it, is a condition for a fully human life. #WorldDayOfThePoor”.

That was a quote from the Pope’s message for this Sunday, which was made public last June 13.

In his text, Francis calls on Catholics to “overcome the barriers of indifference” and to recall that in all poor people “we have an opportunity to encounter the Lord Jesus, who has revealed himself as present in the least of his brothers and sisters”.

“Prayer to God and solidarity with the poor and suffering are inseparable”, the Pope continues in his message.

“In order to perform an act of worship acceptable to the Lord, we have to recognise that each person, even the poorest and most contemptible, is made in the image of God”.

“We cannot feel ‘alright’ when any member of the human family is left behind and in the shadows”, Francis also writes in his message.

The Pope reserves harsh criticism of those, in the Church and beyond, “who prefer to keep their hands in their pockets and to remain unmoved by situations of poverty in which they are often complicit”, taking “indifference and cynicism” as their “daily food”.

There are those in the world who operate in financial markets to ensure “the wealth of an elite few and the dire poverty of millions and the ruin of entire nations”, Francis warns, also criticising those who “accumulate money by the sale of weapons” that only “sow death and poverty”, along with those others who “deal doses of death in dark alleys in order to grow rich and live in luxury and excess, or to quietly pass a bribe for the sake of quick and corrupt gain”.

“We cannot be happy until these hands that sow death are transformed into instruments of justice and peace for the whole world”, the Pope appeals, urging an end to the unjust markets, the arms industry and the illegal drugs trade that exacerbate poverty.

On Novena, the full text of the Pope’s message for the 2020 World Day of the Poor:

Pope clamours for World Day of Poor: “Time devoted to prayer can never become an alibi for neglecting our neighbour in need”

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Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.