ROME — While countries have enforced social distancing measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Pope Francis warned of serious consequences if the same measures aren’t applied to overcrowded prisons.
During the live broadcast of his morning Mass April 6, the pope said that unless authorities make efforts to solve the problem of overcrowded prisons, “there is a danger that this pandemic will end in a serious calamity.”
“Let us pray for those responsible, for those who have to make decisions at this time, so that they may find just and creative ways to solve this problem,” he said at the start of the Mass.
In his homily, the pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading from St. John in which Mary, the sister of Lazarus, anoints Jesus’ feet with a costly perfume. Judas Iscariot, the Gospel recounted, detests the use of such a perfume and argued that it would have been better to sell the perfume and give the money to the poor.
“There are always people” like Judas who value wealth under the guise of charity, the pope said.
“Let us think of some charitable or humanitarian organizations that have so many employees, that have a very structure full of people and in the end, the poor receive 40% because 60% goes to pay the salary of so many people. It’s a way of taking money from the poor,” he said.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells Judas that “you always have the poor with you.” That response, the pope said, highlights the fact that while there are many poor people in public who are forgotten, there are many more who remain unseen “in this culture of indifference.”
The pope recalled visiting a group of families in Buenos Aires, Argentina, who took shelter in an abandoned factory because they couldn’t afford to pay rent in their apartments due “to the injustice of economic or financial organizations.”
In the end, he said, people “will not be judged by our luxury or the trips we make or the social importance we have; we will be judged or our relationship with the poor.”
“If I ignore the poor today, leave them aside and think they are not there, the Lord will ignore me on Judgment Day,” Pope Francis said.
“When Jesus says, ‘You have the poor always with you,’ he means, ‘I will always be with you in the poor; I will be present there,'” the pope said. “And this is not being a communist. This is the center of the Gospel; we will be judged on this.”