Care for the disadvantaged is a central theme of Francis' pontificate. In a meeting with a Roman charity he recalls the power of tenderness.
“Sometimes a caress that comes from the heart does more good than some coins,” said Pope Francis, as he received members of the Circolo San Pietro charity at the Vatican on February 20, 2023. This organization has been supporting disadvantaged people in the Eternal City since 1869, notably by serving food through the “Pope’s Soup” initiative, which began under Pius IX.
“I cannot accompany you physically on the streets of Rome, but I do so with my heart and prayer,” the 86-year-old Pontiff assured. He paid tribute to the members’ “energy, creativity, patience, [and] perseverance.”
In societies “contaminated by the culture of indifference and the throwaway culture,” the Bishop of Rome encouraged the volunteers to go “against the grain” with tenderness. “I am not talking about sentimentalism,” he explained. “I am talking about a feature of God’s love, which is needed today more than ever.”
Care for those who need it the most
Concern for the disadvantaged is at the heart of Francis’ pontificate. In a recent interview on Italian television Canale 5 broadcast on February 18, he criticized Roman restaurants where the bill could reach up 1700 euros for just three people. “But how can one live like that, at that level, when there are people starving?” he asked.
He said this observation isn’t that of a “communist” or of one speaking “ill of the rich.”
“There are saints who were rich but knew how to use their goods for the benefit of others,” he insisted. “This is the Gospel.”
In the same interview, the Pope also cited an image taken by a Vatican photographer of a well-dressed elderly woman coming out of a restaurant and ignoring a beggar asking for alms.
“Perhaps tomorrow it will be you in this position […] Don’t be afraid to touch wounded flesh,” he warned.
He invited everyone to “soften” the “sclerosis of the heart,” remembering the war in Ukraine, almost exactly a year after the conflict began.
“How many people weep today—I don’t mean physically, but in their hearts—for the orphaned children in Ukraine? How many suffer for that? How many suffer for the street children who steal because they are alone in life?” he asked.