ROME — Pope Francis urged Christians Saturday to live in hope despite the many serious troubles and sorrows that plague our world.
“Bad news fills the pages of newspapers, websites and television screens, to the point that evil seems to reign supreme. But that is not the case,” the pope said in his annual message for the World Day of the Poor.
“To be sure, malice and violence, abuse and corruption abound,” he said, “but life is interwoven too with acts of respect and generosity that not only compensate for evil, but inspire us to take an extra step and fill our hearts with hope.”
Last week, Francis reached out to Americans in the midst of riots and looting, urging all to work toward national reconciliation while insisting that violence is “self-destructive and self-defeating.”
“I have witnessed with great concern the disturbing social unrest in your nation in these past days, following the tragic death of Mr. George Floyd,” Francis said.
“My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life,” the pontiff continued. “At the same time, we have to recognize that the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost.”
In his message for the World Day of the Poor, the pope focused, instead, on the experience of living during the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns with the perplexity and pain they have caused.
“This pandemic arrived suddenly and caught us unprepared, sparking a powerful sense of bewilderment and helplessness,” Francis said. “The time of pandemic forced us into strict isolation, making it impossible even to see and console friends and acquaintances grieving the loss of their loved ones.”
“The present experience has challenged many of our assumptions,” he said. “We feel poorer and less self-sufficient because we have come to sense our limitations and the restriction of our freedom.”
“The loss of employment, and of opportunities to be close to our loved ones and our regular acquaintances, suddenly opened our eyes to horizons that we had long since taken for granted,” he continued. “Our spiritual and material resources were called into question and we found ourselves experiencing fear.”
In fact, however, throughout the pandemic, there were heroes in our midst, and “hands never stopped reaching out to the poor,” he said.
“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!” he said. “The outstretched hands of physicians who cared about each patient and tried to find the right cure. The outstretched hands of nurses who worked overtime, for hours on end, to look after the sick.”
Among these heroes were administrators, pharmacists, priests, and volunteers, as well as the many men and women who worked to provide essential services and security, he said.
“Those hands defied contagion and fear in order to offer support and consolation,” he said.
Now it is important to keep our eyes fixed on the essentials, the pope said, and to rediscover a sense of fraternity, mutual help, and esteem.
“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,” he said. “We have had enough of immorality and the mockery of ethics, goodness, faith and honesty.”