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Pope Says Helping the Poor Is Not a Papal Fad, But a Duty

By Carol Glatz

Pope Francis eats lunch with poor people as he marks World Day of the Poor at the Vatican Nov. 18. Some 1,500 people joined the pope for lunch in Paul VI hall. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – As the rich get richer, the increasing misery and cries of the poor are ignored every day, Pope Francis said.

“As believers, we must stretch out our hands as Jesus does with us,” freely and lovingly offering help to the poor and all those in need, the pope said at the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. About 6,000 poor people attended the Mass as special guests; they were joined by volunteers and others who assist disadvantaged communities.

After the Mass and Angelus, the pope joined some 1,500 poor people in the Vatican’s audience hall for a multi-course lunch. God always hears the cries of those in need, the pope said in his homily at the Mass, but what about “us? Do we have eyes to see, ears to hear, hands outstretched to offer help?”

The pope reflected on St. Matthew’s account of what Jesus did after he fed thousands with just five loaves and two fish. The passage explains that instead of gloating or basking in the glory of successfully feeding so many people, Jesus goes up to the mountain to pray.

“He teaches us the courage to leave, to leave behind the success that swells the heart and the tranquility that deadens the soul,” the pope said. But then Jesus goes back down the mountain to the people who still need him, he said.

“This is the road Jesus tells us to take – to go up to God and to come down to our brothers and sisters,” to tear oneself away from a life of ease and comfort and leave behind fleeting pleasures, glories and superfluous possessions, the pope said.

The other event in the passage according to St. Matthew, the pope said, is how the storm and the winds died down after Jesus got into the boat carrying his frightened disciples.

The secret to navigating life and its momentary storms, the pope said, “is to invite Jesus on board. The third thing Jesus does is stretch out his hand to Peter, who, in his fear and doubt, is sinking in the water. “This is the beginning of faith – to cast off the pride that makes us feel self-sufficient and to realize that we are in need of salvation,” he said.

The pope established the World Day of the Poor to encourage the whole church to reach out to those in need and let the poor know their cries have not gone unheard, the pope said in his message this year.

U.N. groups estimate there are some 700 million people in the world who are unable to meet their basic needs and that 10 percent of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty.

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