By John Battle, Chair of the Commission
Pope Francis who has established the Church’s World Day of Prayer for the Poor three years ago has announced the theme for this year’s day to be held on 17th November.
In his message announcing the theme he stressed the vital importance of the both “embracing and assisting the poor, the oppressed and out cast” who he in his typically vivid language has called the “left over people”. His emphasis is on being with and what he described in his reference to the Church hospital as the need for ” proximity”, getting close to and remaining near the poor. Moreover, the focus of the theme is a verse from Psalm 9:19 “The hope of the poor shall not perish forever”.
Pope Francis writes “ If the disciples of the Lord Jesus wish to be genuine evangelisers they must sow tangible seeds of hope“. The sowing of “tangible seeds of hope” is far from a naive exhortation to a superficial optimism. It is an invitation to engage long term with the real hopes of the poor themselves. This positive engagement draws us into the ” good news” stories of the poor themselves. Pope Francis closes his message by calling on all Christians and people of goodwill ” to cooperate effectively so that no one will feel deprived of closeness (“proximity”) and solidarity”.As demonstrated at the recent NJPN (National Justice and Peace Network) conference organised with Church Action on Poverty the best starting point is to engage with their ” good news” stories and accounts of those experiencing poverty and exclusion from the outset. Let them lead us into the ” Good News” of evangelisation keeping in mind the warning of St Vincent de Paul that ” the poor suffer less from a lack of generosity than from a lack of organisation”.