ROME—During his weekly Wednesday audience, Pope Francis addressed a world in which riches and resources are in the hands of a few, warning that “to ignore the poor is to despise God.”
“We must learn this well: Ignoring the poor is despising God!” he said.
God’s mercy, he said, is related “to our mercy towards our neighbor,” and if the latter is lacking, then so is God’s, because it “finds no place in our closed heart, it can’t enter.”
Francis was reflecting on the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus, who represents “the silent cry of the poor of all time and the contradiction of a world where vast wealth and resources are in the hands of a few.”
The pontiff also said that no one should expect for a “miraculous” event to convert one to the faith, because “no messenger and no message will replace the poor we meet on the way, because in them we encounter Jesus himself.”
The parable tells the story of the rich man ignoring Lazarus, who lived at the door of the rich man’s home, ignoring the beggar until the two die. According to the text, “Lazarus is carried to heaven by the angels while the rich man falls into the torments of suffering.”
Francis said Abraham refuses to listen to the rich man’s pleas because “good and evil have been distributed to compensate earthly injustice,” transforming the front door which separated the two into “a deep abyss.”
However, the pope clarified, the rich man wasn’t condemned for his wealth, “but [because] he was unable to feel compassion for Lazarus and come to his aid.”
“God’s mercy for us is related to our mercy for our neighbor,” Francis said. “If I do not open the doors of my heart to the poor, the door stays closed for God too. And this is terrible.”
The pontiff had issued a similar warning to the “proud, rich, and powerful” last January, in his Lenten message, when he said that if they ignore the poor at their door — who represent Christ himself — they’ll “end up condemning themselves and plunging into the eternal abyss of solitude which is Hell.”
Towards the end of the audience, as he was greeting pilgrims in different languages, Pope Francis reiterated his numerous appeals for a lasting peace in Ukraine, and also greeted a group of children, mostly orphans and refugees, from Ukraine who had travelled to Rome with the help of the international initiative Children for peace all over the world.
Last month, the pontiff called for a collection in every European church to provide material aid to those affected by the war in the eastern part of Ukraine.
It’s customary for the pope to greet the various language groups present in the square, with the help of aides who translate a summary of what he said in Italian.
As he was greeting the Polish pilgrims he remembered St. John Paul II, as Wednesday marked the 96th anniversary of his birth. Among the Poles in attendance was President Andrzej Duda, who, together with a group of soldiers and others, had taken part in a memorial Mass for the fallen held at the Polish cemetery of Monte Casino.