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The poor open for us the way to heaven, says Pope Francis

Pope Francis eats lunch with the poor in the Paul VI hall after celebrating Mass marking the first World Day of the Poor at the Vatican, 19 Nov 2017. Some 1,200 poor people joined the pope for the meal. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Sunday, 19 Nov 2017 – the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time and the first World Day of the Poor – in St Peter’s Basilica here.

“If in the eyes of the world they have little value, they are the ones who open to us the way to heaven,” Pope Francis said in his homily.

He added, “In the poor, Jesus knocks on the doors of our heart, thirsting for our love.  When we overcome our indifference and, in the name of Jesus, we give of ourselves for the least of his brethren, we are his good and faithful friends, with whom he loves to dwell.”

The pope noted that it is an “evangelical duty” to care for the poor, as real riches, and to do so not only by giving them bread but also by breaking with them the bread of God’s word, which is addressed first to them.

The pontiff announced the World Day of the Poor during the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy (2016), and entrusted its organisation and promotion to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation.

There were some 4000 needy people in the congregation for the Mass, after which Pope Francis offered Sunday lunch in the Paul VI Hall.

Speaking off the cuff to guests at the luncheon, the Holy Father said, “We pray that the Lord bless us, bless this meal, bless those who have prepared it, bless us all, bless our hearts, our families, our desires, our lives and give us health and strength.”

The Holy Father went on to ask God’s blessing on all those eating and serving in soup kitchens throughout the city. “Rome,” he said, “is full of this [charity and good will] today.”

The World Day of the Poor is to be marked annually, on the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time.

“To love the poor,” Pope Francis said, “means to combat all forms of poverty, spiritual and material: and it will also do us good. Drawing near to the poor in our midst will touch our lives. It will remind us of what really counts: to love God and our neighbour. Only this lasts forever, everything else passes away.” – vatican radio

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