For World Vision the church is an indispensable partner in the work with the poor. Pope Francis, a leader of 1.2 billion Catholic Christians, made poverty an essential part of his ministry. From the very beginning of his election, he identified himself with the poor and has had a vision of the poor church for the poor.
“Poverty calls us to sow hope… Poverty is the flesh of the poor Jesus, in that child who is hungry, in the one who is sick, in those unjust social structures.” (Pope Francis, Meeting with Students, Rome, 2013)
Pope Francis has emphasised in a consistent way in his ministry a face of merciful and compassionate God. He has provoked questions for those who work with the poor.
- Where do you see hope?
- Where do you see unjust structures?
- Where do you see Jesus?
The Pope also defined poverty as “a scandal of the world”. In his own words, “There are so many hungry children, there are so many children without education, so many poor persons. Poverty today is a cry.” (Meeting with students in 2013)
Are we still scandalised by the poverty we around us?
During the Vigil of Pentecost in Rome with Contemporary Movements in the Church, Pope Francis said:
“For us Christians, poverty is not a sociological, philosophical or cultural category. It is a theological category. I would say, perhaps the first category, because God, the Son of God, abased Himself, made Himself poor to walk with us on the road. And this is our poverty: the poverty of the flesh of Christ, the poverty that the Son of God brought us with His Incarnation. A poor Church for the poor begins by going to the flesh of Christ. If we go to the flesh of Christ, we begin to understand something, to understand what this poverty is, the poverty of the Lord.”
How does our broken relationship with Christ impact our understanding of poverty and our work with the poor?
Pope Francis spoke on alleviating poverty in his message at the United Nations (September 25, 2015). He linked poverty to the abuse of the environment. He called it a broken relationship with God’s creation.
How are we caring about the environment in a way that eradicates poverty?
In Washington DC, last month, during his address to United States Congress, Pope Francis spoke about the refugee crisis. He said, “We must not be taken by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces, and listening to their stories. Trying to respond as best as we can to their situation.”
How do we see in the poor a human face of Christ?
In summary, Pope Francis has demonstrated with his actions, more than words, a Christ like character. He leads a simple way of life. As a bishop from Buenos Aires, he took public transportation, cooked his own meals and lived with the poor. As a Pope he washed the feet of the vulnerable. Like St. Francis, after whom the pope called himself, he is an inspiration.
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Tadeusz Mich is director of church and intercultural relations – WVI