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Pope Francis: audience, “abstract poverty does not challenge us”, do not “avoid” the poor on the street

“Abstract poverty does not challenge us: it makes us think, it makes us complain, but it is only when we see poverty in the flesh of a man, a woman, a child that we are challenged”. Pope Francis made these off-the-cuff remarks during his General Audience today, decrying “the habit we have to avoid those in need, to keep them at arm’s length, or to somehow disguise the reality of the needy”. “We turn away from that reality with fashionable habits”, Pope Francis denounced, but “when I meet the poor, there is no more distance between them and me”. “So what is my reaction in these situations?”, the Pope asked the faithful: “Do I turn my eyes away and pass by? Or do I stop and talk to them to make sure they are well?”. And if you do this, some people will certainly say: ‘s/he is crazy, s/he speaks with the poor!”, Pope Francis added off the cuff. “Do I seek to welcome that person in a way or another, or do I try to get rid of him/her as soon as possible?”, he continued. “Perhaps that person is only asking for necessities: something to eat or to drink”. “How many times we pray the Our Father, and yet we do not really pay attention to those words: ‘give us today our daily bread”, the Pope said. When “faced with some news, particularly some pictures, the public opinion feels moved, and aid campaigns are launched to foster solidarity”, he explained: “donations become generous and in this way we can contribute to alleviating the suffering of many people”. According to Pope Francis, “this form of charity, albeit important, may not involve us directly”. But when we “meet a person in need as we are walking along the street, when a poor comes and knock at the door of our homes, it is completely different, because I am no longer in front of an image, but I am involved personally. There is no more distance between me and him or her, and I feel challenged”.

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