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Pope says don't be indifferent to plight of poor

Disadvantaged allow an opportunity 'to encounter Christ himself'

06 February, 18:30
Pope says don't be indifferent to plight of poor (By Sandra Cordon) (ANSA) - Rome, February 6 - Pope Francis denounced indifference towards the disadvantaged - the jobless, the poor, newly arrived immigrants - on Thursday and urged young people to "restore solidarity" to humanity.

"Faced with old and new forms of poverty - unemployment, migration and addictions of various kinds - we have the duty to be alert and thoughtful, avoiding the temptation to remain indifferent," Francis said in an early release of his message for World Youth Day, scheduled for Palm Sunday on April 13.

In that message, Francis said that young people must find a way of "restoring solidarity to the heart of human culture". "We have to remember all those who feel unloved, who have no hope for the future and who have given up on life out of discouragement, disappointment or fear," he said. "The poor provide us with a concrete opportunity to encounter Christ himself, and to touch his suffering flesh".

Francis added that the poor "are not just people to whom we can give something. The poor can teach us much about humility and trust in God".

He also urged young people today to try to resist "low-cost" happiness found in over-consumption and turn instead to the example set in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.

Francis focused on the theme of World Youth Day, taken from the Beatitudes, a set of teachings of Jesus that begin: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven". In his message, the pope urged young people to use the "revolutionary" power of the Beatitudes in the Bible as the central point of reference in their lives. "Jesus challenges us, young friends, to take seriously his approach to life and to decide which path is right for us and leads to true joy," said the pope. "This is the great challenge of faith...If you too are able to say 'yes' to Jesus, your lives will become both meaningful and fruitful".

The pope urged young people to "reject the 'low-cost' offers of the world that present themselves as the route to happiness but provide only a short-term kick.

"It is a tragic thing to see a young person who 'has everything', but is weary and weak," he said. In his message, the pope also said that on April 27 - the second Sunday of Easter - he will canonize former pope John Paul II who initiated World Youth Day, and who will always be "the great patron" of the event.

"In the communion of saints, he will continue to be a father and friend to all of you".

The Catholic Church has been keenly awaiting the canonisation of the charismatic John Paul, one of the most popular popes in history, since he died in 2005 aged 84.

The Argentine pontiff has said that another of his predecessors, John XXIII, will be canonized on the same day.