Pope Francis: The Poor Offer Salvation For The Rest Of Us

A closer reading of the Pope's recent treatise that challenges the way contemporary culture sees poverty in society.

At a soup kitchen protest in Buenos Aires last summer
At a soup kitchen protest in Buenos Aires last summer
Marco Gallo*


BUENOS AIRES When Pope Francis decided after the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy in 2016, to set November 17 as the World Day of the Poor, he wanted to bring to the attention of both Catholics and public opinion worldwide, the new role played by the "excluded" in our globalized and distracted societies.

In his message The Hope of the Poor Will Never be Frustrated, the Pope wishes to underline as on other occasions, the enormous inequality that exists in our world, with a growing breach between the rich and the poor who evidently suffer the worst of its consequences.

The Supreme Pontiff states in his message: "The economic crisis has not prevented large groups of people from accumulating fortunes that often appear all the more incongruous when, in the streets of our cities, we daily encounter great numbers of the poor who lack the bare necessities of life and are at times harassed and exploited."

They are seen as a threat or simply useless, simply because they are poor.

But the Pontiff also explicitly comments on the merciless judgment brought on the poor as the "parasites on society." He declares that "the poor are not even forgiven for their poverty. Judgment is always around the corner. They are not allowed to be timid or discouraged; they are seen as a threat or simply useless, simply because they are poor." The message considers the inhuman conditions in which the poor seek the dignity of work, when possible. "They labor in unsafe and inhumane conditions that prevent them from feeling on a par with others. They lack unemployment compensation, benefits, or even provision for sickness," the Pontiff stated.

Very often the poor are the object of sociological studies, trophies to show to politicians, invisible to most of society and almost never considered as individuals with personal histories. Pope Francis points out that the task at hand is not to help them but present them with "gratuitous love that seeks no reward."

Within this perspective, he invites us all to change our mentality. The poor can guide us to lead a more austere life, less consumerist, where the things that matter are not those we hold as possessions, but human relations.

Pope Francis visits a favela in Brazil in 2013 — Photo: Agencia Brasil

Thus, perhaps as a great paradox, they can help us to live more openly and generously, and "to discover their inner goodness, paying heed to their background and their way of expressing themselves, and in this way to initiate a true fraternal dialogue."

He invites us all to change our mentality.

The poor have their dignity and society tends to forget this. The Pope clarifies that "the poor are not statistics to cite when boasting of our works and projects. The poor are persons to be encountered." For the Catholic faithful, they are a veritable treasure that "saves us, because they allow us to see the face of Jesus Christ."

*Gallo is a member of the Sant'Egidio Community and Director of the Pontifical Chair at the Catholic University of Buenos Aires.

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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