ROME — In his annual message for Lent, Pope Francis once again blasted what he called a “globalization of indifference,” saying that when people grow materially comfortable they tend to forget about others, becoming unconcerned with their problems, suffering, and injuries.
He called on Christian communities to become “islands of mercy,” transforming parishes, communities, and groups into places where God’s mercy becomes visible.
“How greatly I desire that all those places where the Church is present may become islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference!” said Francis.
“Our heart grows cold,” the pope said. “As long as I am relatively healthy and comfortable, I don’t think about those less well off. Today, this selfish attitude of indifference has taken on global proportions, to the extent that we can speak of a globalization of indifference.”
Facing this scenario, said the pope, “someone might be discouraged because it may seem that he [or she] cannot change anything,” since we are in a social and economic crisis that’s beyond us.
In his Lenten message, presented Tuesday in Rome, Francis said the answer to this indifference is to pray, to help others, and to recognize the need for God. These three things can be done at different levels, he said: in the Church as a whole, in parishes and communities, and individually.
With regard to the Church as a whole, the pope referred to a sense of communion that Catholics should have, calling them to share their possessions with others.
“In this sharing of holy things, no one possesses anything alone, but shares everything with others,” he said.
“Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians,” Francis said, adding that in the Church, there’s no room for the indifference that so often “seems to possess our heart.”
On a parish level, Francis said that every community is called to go outside of itself and engage in the life of the greater society of which it is a part, paying special attention of the poor and those who are far away.
“The Church is missionary by her very nature; she is not self-enclosed, but sent out to every nation and people,” he said.
On a personal level, the pope called on Catholics to avoid being caught up in a spiral of distress and powerlessness created by endless news reports and troubling images of human suffering.
Francis also called for all dioceses around the world to join his initiative of “24 Hours for the Lord,” a penitential celebration to be observed March 13-14 that aims to place the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession) at the center of the Church’s mission of spreading the Gospel.
Pope Francis first talked about the “globalization of indifference” in 2013, when he went to Lampedusa, an Italian island where thousands of African migrants arrive yearly in the hopes of a better life in Europe.
“We have become used to the suffering of others,” Francis said at the time. “It doesn’t affect us. It doesn’t interest us. It’s not our business.”
Lent, which begins this year on Feb. 18 (Ash Wednesday) for Latin-rite Catholics, is a 40-day season of fasting, prayer, and repentance that serves as preparation for Easter.