Pope Francis Astounding vision of a ‘Poor Church’

ANDREA TORNIELLI
VATICAN CITY

Pope Francis does not see the poor and suffering as mere food for thought for his homilies. They are the “flesh of Christ”. This is why he continues to remind Christians of the importance of getting close to the poor in order to “touch the flesh” of Jesus. Bergoglio set an example yesterday by visiting Centro Astalli, a Jesuit refugee centre in downtown Rome. The Pope really “put his money where his mouth was” by going there in person. His physical presence was worth a thousand of his powerful words.

What is most striking is the style of the new Bishop of Rome, who moves about “his” city with such ease. He turned up at the refugee centre in the usual blue Ford Focus, no escorts, no entourage. He didn’t even take his personal secretary with him. Francis scheduled this visit himself – as he scheduled so many other meetings and audiences – by telephoning Centro Astalli in person, because as the Argentinean Pope said, “we need to learn to be normal”. Strangely enough, those around him are finding this concept of “normality” and sobriety hard to grasp and take on board: cardinals turned up with an entourage, while Francis did not.

Francis’ message regarding convents – “Dear men and women religious, “empty convents are not for the Church to transform into hotels and make money from them. Empty convents are not ours, they are for the flesh of Christ: refugees” – sent shock waves through the Church. The Catholic Church’s supporting bodies do a great deal. But they need to be courageous and do more. Francis does not preach to others about solidarity, he starts at home, setting an example.

“This Pope really makes the poor and needy feel that God is close to them,” a smiley African girl said on her way out of the refugee centre. “I think the biggest change is to do with his personality. He is a direct witness of the faith,” said the Archbishop of Milan, Angelo Scola in Mantua yesterday evening. “His gestures show what faith is all about and are a lesson in themselves. A person becomes a witness when they are actively involved in what they talk about, thereby becoming an authoritative voice.” Read more click here…

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