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Pope challenges faithful to concrete acts in message for World Day of the Poor

VATICAN CITY – In his message for the first World Day of the Poor, Pope Francis writes, “everyone, independent of religious affiliation, is invited to openness and sharing with the poor through concrete signs of solidarity and fraternity.”

The World Day of the Poor will be celebrated on 19 November 2017. The Pope’s message for the occasion was released by the Vatican on June 13.

At a Vatican press conference introducing the new papal document, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the president of the Pontifical Council for New Evangelisation, recalled that Pope Francis had made a spontaneous decision to institute a World Day of the Poor. During the ceremony for the closing of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, on 13 November 2016, the Pontiff broke from the text of his prepared homily to say: “I would like today to be the ‘day of the poor.’ ” He then decided to make the event a regular annual observance.

In his message for the first Day of the Poor, the Holy Father stresses that care for the poor is “an imperative that no Christian may disregard.” He urges the faithful to go beyond “occasional volunteer work, or impromptu acts of generosity that appease our conscience.” The real goal of charitable action, he said, should be “a true encounter with the poor and a sharing that becomes a way of life.”

Pope Francis challenges Christians to recognise “the contrast between the empty words so frequently on our lips and the concrete deeds against which we are called to measure ourselves.” He holds up the example of St Francis of Assisi as a model of active service to, and identification with, the poor.

“What a bitter and endless list we would have to compile were we to add the poverty born of social injustice, moral degeneration, the greed of a chosen few, and generalised indifference!” the Holy Father writes.

The Pope suggests that all Christian communities, in the week leading up to the World Day of the Poor, should find ways to “create moments of encounter” with the poor. Specifically, he suggests that Catholics invite the poor to participate in Sunday Mass: “let us welcome them as honoured guests at our table.”

“At the heart of all the many concrete initiatives carried out on this day should always be prayer,” the Pope writes. – CWN

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