Pope Francis calls on Catholics to embrace the homeless this Lent
Publication Date: 2017-03-03
The Holy Father said the Church could not ignore suffering and urged people to ‘walk in the shoes of the other’
Pope Francis has urged Catholics to help the homeless this Lent.
In an interview given to the Italian equivalent of The Big Issue this week, the Pope said that giving something to someone in need ‘is always right,’ and it should be done with respect and compassion, because ‘tossing money and not looking in [their] eyes is not a Christian’ way of behaving.
The Holy Father said people justify not giving to the homeless by telling themselves things such as: “I give money and then he spends it on drinking a glass of wine.” But, the Pope said, if ‘a glass of wine is the only happiness he has in life, that’s okay.’
“Instead ask yourself what do you do on the sly? What ‘happiness’ do you seek in secret?”
Another way to look at it, Pope Francis said, is to recognise how ‘you are luckier, with a house, a wife, children’ and then ask why should the responsibility to help be pushed onto someone else.
The way one reaches out to the person asking for help is important, he added, and must be done ‘by looking them in the eyes and touching their hands.’ When encountering people who live on the street, the Pope said he always greets them and sometimes inquires about their lives and background.
The Pope told a story from his time in Buenos Aires, where he was archbishop, of a mother with five children. While the father was at work and the rest of the family ate lunch, a homeless man called in to ask for food. Rather than letting the children give away their father’s dinner for that evening, the mother taught the children to give away some of their own food. “If we wish to give, we must give what is ours!’ the Pope said.
Throughout the interview, the Holy Father often referred to the idea of walking in each other’s shoes. According to the Pope, to walk in other’s shoes is a way to escape our own egoism. “In the shoes of the other, we learn to have a great capacity for understanding, for getting to know difficult situations,” he said. The Pope maintained that words alone are not enough: what is needed, he said, is the ‘greatness’ to walk in the shoes of the other.
“How often I have met a person who, after having searched for Christian comfort, be they a layman, a priest, a sister or a bishop, they tell me they listened to me, but didn’t understand me.”
The Pope also called for a more compassionate attitude towards refugees across Europe saying that many of those arriving here are fleeing from war or hunger.
All of us in this world, the Pope said, are part of this situation and need to find ways to help and benefit those around us.
According to the Holy Father, this responsibility is especially true of governments and the Pope used the example of the work of the Saint Egidio community—that has established humanitarian corridors for groups of vulnerable migrants—in order to make his point.
Regarding the 13 refugees from Lesbos taken in by the Vatican, the Pope pointed out that the families have integrated well into society, with the children being enrolled in schools and their parents having found work. This, according to Pope Francis, is an example of immigrants wanting to fit into and contribute to a new country, and achieving that desire.