Date of publication: 06/11/2020

The SSVP and the World Day of the Poor

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This year, the Council General requests Conferences to give greater visibility to Vincentian Charity

The WORLD DAY OF THE POOR will be held on 15 November 2020 on the theme “Stretch forth your hand to the poor” (Sir 7, 32), drawn from the message written by his Holiness Pope Francis (link to the message is provided below). The World Day of the Poor, established by the Vatican in 2016, is celebrated on the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Pope Francis published his message and called on people to “stretch forth their hand to the poor”, and warned against “cynicism” and “indifference” of those whose hands are outstretched to accumulate money by the sale of weapons and drugs. “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!” said Pope Francis, drawing attention to the actions of solidarity throughout the world to help those most affected by dire poverty.

Pope Francis also commended the outstretched hands of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, volunteers or priests, who have given of themselves day and night amidst the pandemic and have defied contagion and fear to offer support and consolation. He also criticized those who prefer to keep their hands in their pockets and to remain unmoved by situations of poverty in which they are often complicit.

Pope Francis laments the frenetic pace of life that leads people, who turn a blind eye on poverty, into a “whirlwind of indifference”, but praises the “generosity that supports the weak […], a condition for full human life”. Pope Francis also acknowledged that the Church certainly has no comprehensive solutions to “the silent cry of so many poor”; it’s possible, though, to do much more for the poorest.

Even in times of pandemic, we, as members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, can celebrate the WORLD DAY OF THE POOR in a creative and efficient way. One suggestion would be to get closer to lay ecclesial movements in each parish, with fund-raising campaigns for Conferences (food and hygiene kits, which are essential in these times). 

Another idea would be to offer a greater visibility of the SSVP on the parishes’ and dioceses’ media, while liaising with companies, the government and the mass media, and showcasing the social work of Conferences and Special Works. At the end of the Mass, on 15 November, it would be worthwhile for the Conference President to disseminate the Vincentian mission, vision and values, prompting new members to join the Conferences.

“In any case, the most important thing is to be witnesses of Christ’s love for the most needy, living out the Gospel message, in community, serving Christ in the poor with love, respect, justice and empathy. Simply with our good deeds, we can do a lot for the poor”, stressed our fellow member Renato Lima, the 16th President General.

As we ponder on 2020’s WORLD DAY OF THE POOR, amidst this health crisis, it must be acknowledged that global extreme poverty is on the rise, with people becoming unemployed and mental health cases increasing significantly. The pandemic has also been a hard blow for the world economy and countries’ wealth, having a devastating impact on families, particularly on young people. The education world has also been turned upside down, with millions of children missing out on school.

Faced with this hostile context, the WORLD DAY OF THE POOR is a great challenge for all of us, as members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Let us pray that the Good Lord will protect us and help us overcome these difficult times. “Sharing with the poor means mutual enrichment. If there are unhealthy social structures that prevent them from dreaming of the future, we must work together to heal them, to change them.” (Evangelii Gaudium: Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, 2013, no 195).

Our founders taught us that we need to reassess our actions by better reallocating our resources, avoiding hoarding, relaxing our internal rules and mobilizing our human and material heritage, to serve the poorest with joy and no complaints, and love them without judgment, bringing the “Gospel of Hope” to everyone.

Click here to read his Holiness Pope Francis’ full message.