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For World Day of the Poor, Pope Francis Urges Christians to "be friends of the poor"

A homeless man sleeps on the sidewalk in downtown Los Angeles on Nov. 22, 2023.

Ahead of the eighth observance of the World Day of the Poor, Pope Francis this week urged Christians around the world to share in the suffering of the poor and to commune with them through the act of prayer. 

The Holy Father established the World Day of the Poor in 2016 at the end of the Church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy. The day is celebrated each year on the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, a week before the feast of Christ the King. This year the observance will fall on Nov. 17.

In a letter to the faithful on Thursday, the pope pointed toward the Book of Sirach. The author of that book, Ben Sira, discovered through prayer that “the poor hold a privileged place in God’s heart,” according to the pope. 

“God knows the sufferings of his children because he is an attentive and caring father,” Francis wrote. “As a father, he takes care of those who are most in need: the poor, the marginalized, the suffering, and the forgotten.”

Drawing on familiar themes of his pontificate, Francis warned against pursuing worldly goods and fame at the cost of the dignity of others. 

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“The mentality of the world demands that we become somebody, that we make a name for ourselves at any cost, breaking social norms in order to accumulate wealth,” he said. “How sad of an illusion this is!”

In January, Pope Francis announced the start of a Year of Prayer in preparation for the Catholic Church’s 2025 Jubilee Year. The yearlong observance, he said on Thursday, underscores the need “to make the prayer of the poor our own and pray together with them.”

“The great majority of the poor have a special openness to the faith; they need God and we must not fail to offer them his friendship, his blessing, his word, the celebration of the sacraments, and a journey of growth and maturity in the faith,” the pope said. 

The poor are markedly disposed to receiving God’s grace, Francis noted; having nothing else, they “receive strength from God and place all their trust in him.”

The Holy Father further highlighted the example of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who spent her life working for the poor and who described herself as “only a poor sister who prays.”

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“By praying, Jesus puts his love in my heart, and I go to give it to all the poor I meet along the way,” the nun told the United Nations in 1985. “Pray too!”

The pope said he urged the faithful to “become pilgrims of hope” ahead of the holy year. 

“We are called in every circumstance to be friends of the poor, following in the footsteps of Jesus who always began by showing solidarity when dealing with the least among us,” the pope said. 

The pontiff reminded readers of the example of the Blessed Mother, who during an appearance in Banneux in 1933 declared herself to be “the Virgin of the Poor.”

To her “we entrust our prayers, convinced that they will rise to heaven and be heard,” the pope said. 

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Daniel Payne is a senior editor at Catholic News Agency. He previously worked at the College Fix and Just the News. He lives in Virginia with his family.