Pope Francis' moving encounter in Assisi with poor people from all over the world

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12/11/2021
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Pope Francis kicked off World Day of the Poor in Assisi, the home of the saint of the poor.

Before entering this basilica, known by the Franciscans as the “Portiuncula,” a group of participants gave the Pope a pilgrim's cloak and walking stick.

He didn't choose this place arbitrarily. The Portiuncula is where St. Francis of Assisi found his vocation and gave up his wealth to live in poverty, among the poor. He also started the Franciscan movement.

There the Pope listened to the participants' moving stories.

Some shared what they do to help others. Like this couple who moved to the peripheries in Paris in order to be with the poor.

Others shared how they received help. Like this man from Spain who was left unemployed during the pandemic.

-'In that moment, as with many other people around the world, the pandemic surprised me. I was left alone and without a job, on the street. For several weeks, I was sleeping in the streets. I asked a priest for help, and he welcomed me with a smile... He looked at me and said... I'm going to help you.'

-'The people from Caritas began helping me when they heard about my situation. They gave me food and some financial support, which allowed me to move forward and keep my dignity.'

Other homeless people shared how being helped by others led them to discover the faith.

This homeless man from France was an Atheist, but he decided to get baptized.

And this Polish man rediscovered his relationship with God.

-'I hated myself at first. Now I accept who I am and, thank God, I want to turn my life around. Today I feel like a free man.'

A young Afghan woman told the Pope that she is very worried about her family and friends who are still stuck in Afghanistan.

And this man who taught sociology in Afghanistan, asked for help getting his children out of the country.

-'I have four children: two boys and two girls. They are between 20 and 24 years old, and have been abandoned in Afghanistan.'

The Pope was moved by the testimonies, and listened very attentively.

POPE FRANCIS
'The Day of the Poor... I thank the poor, who open their hearts to give us their richness and heal our wounded hearts. Thank you for this courage.'

The Pope also thanked those who help people in need. But he urged more people to join the cause.

POPE FRANCIS
'It is time to open our eyes to see the state of inequality in which many families live. It is time to roll back our sleeves so dignity can be restored by creating jobs. It is time to be scandalized once more by the reality of children who are starving, reduced to slavery, tossed about in the water in the aftermath of a shipwreck, innocent victims of every sort of violence.'

The Pope listed a number situations of poverty that affect all kinds of people.

POPE FRANCIS
'It is time for violence against women to stop, and for them to be respected and not treated like bargaining chips. It is time to break the circle of indifference and return to discovering beauty in encounter and dialogue. It is time to encounter one another. If we do not learn to encounter one another, we will move toward a very sad end.'

It was not a formal event. The Pope listened to participants, prayed with them and blessed them.

Pope Francis encourages Catholics to organize events like this one in every city in the world.

JMB

TR: CT

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