Pope Francis will celebrate Mass in St Peter's Basilica next Sunday, but “only 100 people will be present” to “represent symbolically all the poor people of the world”. Focusing on the theme ‘Stretch forth your hand to the poor’, the Pope seeks “to emphasise the urgency to which the COVID-19 pandemic has subjected the entire world.”
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The World Day of the Poor is now at its Fourth edition. At a press conference today, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation, announced, via live streaming, that the event will be celebrated next Sunday, 15 November, centred on the biblical aphorism: ‘Stretch forth your hand to the poor’ (Sir 7:32).
Scores of initiatives are planned for that day, including coronavirus testing for the poor in Rome at a field clinic installed near the colonnades on St Peter's Square; the distribution of food parcels to thousands of needy families, as well as 350,000 masks to students; the use of Berlin’s cathedral, currently undergoing renovation, as a large canteen; and families in Québec (Canada) sharing a meal with the poor. From the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church also comes the invitation to "Feed the poor".
On Sunday, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass. In addition to volunteers and benefactors, “only 100 persons will be present in St Peter's Basilica, to represent symbolically all the poor people of the world who, on this day, need in particular the care and solidarity of the Christian community. Some people, who receive assistance daily from different charities, will proclaim the readings.”
The Day’s theme, laid out in Pope Francis’ Message of 13 June, the memorial day of Saint Anthony of Padua, is centred on the biblical aphorism: ‘Stretch forth your hand to the poor’. In his message, the pontiff emphasised “the urgency to which the Covid-19 pandemic has subjected the entire world. Stressing some expressions in the text can help us understand the initiatives undertaken to offer tangible assistance and support to the ever-increasing number of families who find themselves in objective difficulty.”
“A hand held out is a sign; a sign that immediately speaks of closeness, solidarity and love. In these months, when the whole world was prey to a virus that brought pain and death, despair and bewilderment, how many outstretched hands have we seen!
‘The outstretched hands of physicians [. . .], of nurses [. . .], of administrators [. . .], pharmacists [. . .],” and “of priests [. . .], of volunteers who helped people living on the streets and those with a home yet nothing to eat [. . .] of men and women who worked to provide essential services and security.
‘We could continue to speak of so many other outstretched hands, all of which make up a great litany of good works. Those hands defied contagion and fear in order to offer support and consolation’ (n.6).,”
“The Holy Father adds: ‘Now is a good time to recover “the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world’ (n.7).”
“As one can imagine, the usual activities of recent years have been put on hold to comply with current regulations. I am referring in particular to the field clinic in St Peter's Square and 1,500 poor people who have lunch with the Holy Father in the Paul VI Hall. The pandemic, however, has not prevented taking certain steps for this Day.
“Coronavirus testing at the clinic set up by the Office of Papal Charities (Elemosineria Apostolica) under the colonnades of St Peter's Square will be available for the poor who must have access to dormitories or those who want to return to their homeland. The clinic is open from 8 am to 2 pm; over two weeks, it has tested 50 people a day.
“Likewise, the pandemic has not diminished the generosity of some benefactors; on the contrary, it has increased it and made it even more visible. For this reason, we were able to do something that expressed Pope Francis’ closeness and attention at this moment,” namely providing “5,000 parcels with basic items to especially needy families in about sixty Roman parishes.”
The World Day of the Poor, Archbishop Fisichella noted, “although limited in terms of initiatives, is still a moment to which the Dioceses around the world look in order to keep alive a sense of care and brotherhood towards the most vulnerable and marginalised people.
“The Pastoral Aid, which was prepared again this year to help parishes and various Church institutions, can be regarded as a proactive tool to ensure that this Day is not limited to only charitable initiatives, but that the latter can be supported by personal and communal prayers, which cannot be forgone if we want our witness to be full and effective.”
The Pastoral Aid is available in Italian, as well as five other languages, namely English, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Polish. Each version is available on the website of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation.
“Various Churches have announced that they will take part in this Day,” said Archbishop Fisichella. This suggests “that it will be one of active participation, with, the usual forms of outreach” but nevertheless “in people’s own homes to avoid spreading the virus.”