In a message marking the 10th anniversary of his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis re-emphasised the centrality of the poor in the Church’s joyful proclamation of salvation in Christ.
The message was addressed to participants in a symposium on Evangelii Gaudium organised by the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development.
Pope Francis noted that although the difficulties are sometimes “less explicit” they are “perhaps more insidious.”
“Since they are not so visible, [modern difficulties] operate like anesthesia or like the carbon monoxide of old stoves that silently kills,” Pope Francis said. “Throughout history, human weakness, the unhealthy search for oneself, comfortable selfishness, and ultimately, concupiscence that lurks within all of us, are always present.”
Our redemption linked with the poor
He recalled that Evangelii Gaudium sought to make it clear that the Church’s evangelising mission and our Christian life “cannot disregard the poor”.
“The entire path of our redemption is marked by the poor. Everything,” he said.
Jesus himself, Pope Francis observed, was born in a stable, worked with his hands, and put the poor and dispossessed “at the center of His heart.”
He said the Church must resist any attempt to relativise Jesus’ “clear, direct, simple and eloquent message…because our salvation is at stake here.”
“Therefore, the Pope cannot help but place the poor at the centre,” he said. “It is not politics, sociology, or ideology; it is simply and purely the requirement of the Gospel.”
He said the practical consequences of this “non-negotiable principle” must be borne out in every ecclesial institution and individual Christian.
“What no one can evade or excuse themselves from is the debt of love that every Christian—and, I dare say, every human being—owes to the poor,” he said.
Inequality at root of all social ills
Pope Francis also emphasised that Evangelii Gaudium urged Christians to address the problem which he said lies at the root of poverty and social evils: inequality.
He renewed his calls for new social structures and a new mentality that overturn the “absolute autonomy of market forces and financial speculation.”
“If we do not achieve this change in mentality and structures, we are doomed to see the climate, health, migration, and particularly violence and wars deepen, endangering the entire human family, both poor and non-poor, integrated and excluded,” he said.
The Pope noted that his first encyclical, Laudato si’, grew out of his realisation that the climate crisis is rooted in the “inequality of this economy that kills”.
Listening to cry of the poor
In conclusion, the Holy Father urged Christians to listen to the cries of the poor and the earth, so that we might fulfill our evangelising mission and live as Jesus has invited us to do.
“Thank you again for this Symposium,” he said. “Thank you for what you do. I bless you and accompany you with prayer.”
Pope on Evangelii Gaudium: ‘Redemption marked by the poor’ (Vatican News)