On the 10th anniversary of his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium”, Pope Francis emphasizes the centrality of the poor in the Church’s joyful proclamation of salvation in Christ.
By Devin Watkins
Pope Francis sent a message on Friday to participants in a symposium dedicated to his 2013 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium andorganized by the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development.
Marking the 10th anniversary of its release, the Pope recalled his invitation for the Church to recover the missionary joy of the early Christians, who braved active resistance and injustices to proclaim the Gospel courageously.
He noted that our own times present challenges to overcome, though the difficulties are “less explicit but perhaps more insidious”.
“Since they are not so visible, [modern difficulties] operate like anesthesia or like the carbon monoxide of old stoves that silently kills,” he said. “Throughout history, human weakness, the unhealthy search for oneself, comfortable selfishness, and ultimately, concupiscence that lurks within all of us, are always present.”
Our redemption linked with the poor
Pope Francis said Evangelii Gaudium sought to make it clear that the Church’s evangelizing mission and our Christian life “cannot disregard the poor”.
“The entire path of our redemption is marked by the poor. Everything,” he said.
Jesus, recalled the Pope, was born in a stable, worked with his hands, and put the poor and dispossessed “at the center of His heart.”
The Holy Father said the Church must resist any attempt to relativize Jesus’ “clear, direct, simple and eloquent message…because our salvation is at stake here.”
“Therefore, the Pope cannot help but place the poor at the center,” he said. “It is not politics, sociology, or ideology; it is simply and purely the requirement of the Gospel.”
He said the practical consequences of this “non-negotiable principle” must be borne out in every ecclesial institution and individual Christian.
“What no one can evade or excuse themselves from is the debt of love that every Christian—and, I dare say, every human being—owes to the poor,” he said.
Inequality at root of all social ills
Pope Francis went on to point out that Evangelii Gaudium urged Christians to address the problem which he said lies at the root of poverty and social evils: inequality.
He renewed his calls for new social structures and a new mentality that overturn the “absolute autonomy of market forces and financial speculation”.
“If we do not achieve this change in mentality and structures, we are doomed to see the climate, health, migration, and particularly violence and wars deepen, endangering the entire human family, both poor and non-poor, integrated and excluded,” he said.
The Pope noted that his first encyclical, Laudato si’, grew out of his realization that the climate crisis is rooted in the “inequality of this economy that kills”.
Listening to cry of the poor
In conclusion, the Holy Father urged Christians to listen to the cries of the poor and the earth, so that we might fulfill our evangelizing mission and live as Jesus has invited us to do.
“Thank you again for this Symposium,” he said. “Thank you for what you do. I bless you and accompany you with prayer.”