Pope Francis has designated this Sunday 19 November 2017 as the first World Day of the Poor. Please see below the following statement from Bishop John McAreavey:
Reading the message of Pope Francis for the First World Day of the Poor I am moved by its simplicity, its starkness: “Let us not love in word or speech, but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn 3:18).
Francis highlights ‘the contrast between the empty words so frequently on our lips and the concrete deeds against which we are called to measure ourselves.’ I would urge all people of faith and of none to read the Pope’s short statement. And more, I would encourage people in Ireland to act now and to share ‘with the poor through concrete signs of solidarity and fraternity’.
Reflecting on what ‘concrete signs of solidarity’ means here in Ireland, it need only be noted that this week the Society of Saint Vincent De Paul says it expects that 50,000 families will seek its help this winter.
Our actions, our financial support and our prayers are needed by more than 50,000 families from Cork to Antrim. Let us be clear, the poor and marginalised are not in some distant land, they are in every town and village in the country and so in every town and village there are needs to be met and also, the tools to show ‘concrete signs of solidarity’ – US – you and me, through our actions, our financial support and our prayers. When we hear the cry of the poor, we are responding to a fundamental obligation of faith, the obligation founded upon the oneness of creation with the Creator:
“This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him” (Ps 34:6).
Significantly, while we must address the symptoms of economic poverty and social exclusion, it is vital that we address structural violence in Irish society through which ‘wealth accumulates in the hands of the privileged few, often in connection with illegal activities and the appalling exploitation of human dignity’. Tragically, there seems to be a growing disregard in some quarters, for the situation of the weakest in our society, or indeed, if the marginalized are spoken of at all, assumptions are readily made about them and the areas from which they come, with little recognition of the life chances with which they started out. There is a growing sentiment that: The poor are poor due to their own faults and inadequacies. People who are poor are solely responsible for their situation and can rectify it themselves, or not, as they so choose.
Pope Francis has previously warned of this phenomenon, ‘a numbing of conscience and tendentious analyses which neglect parts of reality’ (Laudato Si 49). Such prejudices further harm people who are already marginalized. I would ask people to resist attempts to blame the poor for their situation and instead, try to manifest compassion in actions and words for our sisters and brothers, the weak, the poor, the sick, and the homeless. In the words of Pope Francis: ‘We need to strengthen the conviction that we are one single human family. There are no frontiers or barriers, political or social, behind which we can hide, still less is there room for the globalization of indifference’ (Laudato Si 52).
A simple phrase from Francis’ statement for World Day of the Poor reverberates in my mind with accusatory power: ‘Love has no alibi.’ I pray that those of us who have added to the impoverishment of our neighbour or simply neglected our neighbour’s suffering, can rid ourselves of excuses and alibis and instead, ‘find Jesus in the faces of others, in their voices, in their pleas’ (Evangelii Gaudium 91).
Let us mark the First World Day of the Poor here in Ireland by renewing our solidarity with, and love for the marginalised, not ‘in word or speech, but in deed and in truth’.
- Bishop John McAreavey is Bishop of Dromore and Chair of the Bishops’ Council for Justice and Peace.
- Message of His Holiness Pope Francis, First World Day of The Poor, 19 November 2017 available at: https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/poveri/documents/papa-francesco_20170613_messaggio-i-giornatamondiale-poveri-2017.html
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