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“Let us love not with words, but with deeds” is the theme of the first World Day of the Poor, announced by Pope Francis in June. The celebrations will be held Sunday in the Vatican and, hopefully, in churches around the world. The pope chose to create this World Day after the end of the Jubilee of Mercy, so that Christians around the world would offer a helping hand to the poor, the weak, and the needy.
According to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, some 4,000 people including the needy and volunteers from various dioceses around the world, are expected in Rome to participate in this special occasion. They will meet at St. Peter’s Basilica for a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at 10 a.m. local time.
At the end of the Mass, 1,500 of the indigent guests will have lunch with the pope at the Vatican. The marching band of the Gendarmerie Corps of the Vatican will play for them, together with The Sweet Notes (Le Dolci Note in Italian) choir, whose members are children from 5 to 14 years of age.
The organizers reported that the menu prepared by chef Sergio Dussin’s Al Pioppeto restaurant for the occasion will be: “Sardinian gnocchi with tomatoes, olives, and Colina Veneta cheese, veal stew with vegetables, polenta, and broccoli from Bassano (northern Italy), and for dessert, Venetian-style coffee-flavored candy, water, oranges, and coffee.”
A festive meal will also be waiting for another 2,500 indigent people who will be welcomed into dining rooms prepared for them at seminaries and Catholic colleges throughout Rome: the Pontifical North American College, the Pontifical Leonine College, the Pontifical Roman Minor Seminary, and the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum.
In addition, in order to welcome the “esteemed guests of the pope and of the Church,” other dining facilities are being prepared from among those traditionally managed by charitable works already present in the Italian capital, such as Caritas, the Circolo San Pietro, and the Community of Sant’Egidio.
Who will serve at the tables? The guests will be served by 40 deacons from the Diocese of Rome and approximately 150 volunteers from parishes of other dioceses.
The pope delegated the organization of the event to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the Prefect of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.
Volunteer organizations such as Caritas, the Fratello 2016 Association, and the Order of Malta, among others, have become involved, so that the greatest possible number of people in need and parish volunteers can participate.
Pius XII Square, in front of St. Peter’s Square, is the venue for another initiative in the context of the World Day of the Poor (November 13-19): the opening of a Charitable Health Clinic. This open health facility will provide those in need with lab analyses and specialized medical exams for cardiology, dermatology, infectious illnesses, gynecology, and men’s health—all for free.
The Vatican reported that this initiative was made possible thanks to the willingness and generosity of the medical institutions that have collaborated to make it happen, such as the Vatican’s Health Assistance Fund, the Dermatology Department of the Gemelli Clinic, the Cardiology Department of the Gemelli Clinic, and the Gynecology Department of the Tor Vergata University hospital of Rome.
The Volunteer Nurse Corps of the Italian Red Cross is also offering reception and classification services at the five tents present in the square. The creation of this area was made possible thanks to the support of the Italian army and the National Confederation of Mercy of Italy.
On Saturday, November 18, at 8 p.m., at the Basilica of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls, a vigil will be held to pray for all those who do volunteer work, who “every day, in the silence of their commitment, offer relief and joy to many poor people,” according to the dicastery organizing the event.
In preparation for the World Day of the Poor, the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization published a pastoral guide, titled “Love not in word but in deed.” The text has been translated into 6 languages, and is published by San Paolo Publishing. It can be downloaded for free.
Throughout the world, dioceses and parishes have been invited to receive Pope Francis’ initiative with enthusiasm, so as to favor all those who are less fortunate.