January 26, 2016

Pope Francis: World’s powerful risk hell by ignoring the poor

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Pope Francis is silhouetted as he arrives to lead the weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican on December 30, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Max Rossi
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-POPE-LENT, originally transmitted on Jan. 26, 2016.

Pope Francis is silhouetted as he arrives to lead the weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican on December 30, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Max Rossi *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-POPE-LENT, originally transmitted on Jan. 26, 2016.

(RNS) Pope Francis is taking direct aim at the wealthy and powerful of the world, saying in his message for Lent that they are often “slaves to sin” who, if they ignore the poor, “will end up condemning themselves and plunging into the eternal abyss of solitude which is hell.”

“The greater their power and wealth, the more this blindness and deception can grow,” the pontiff wrote in his annual Lenten exhortation, which was released on Tuesday (Jan. 26).

Francis has made caring for the poor and denouncing social injustice a hallmark of his pontificate since his election in 2013. He has said he would like “a church that is poor and for the poor,” and he has called the “unfettered pursuit of money” the “dung of the devil.”

In this year’s message to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics for the penitential season leading to Easter, he uses some of his most powerful language yet. He talks about the corrupting influence of money and power — while pointing out that caring for the poor, and not just praying for them, is the path to genuine conversion.

“The corporal and spiritual works of mercy must never be separated,” the pope writes. “By touching the flesh of the crucified Jesus in the suffering, sinners can receive the gift of realizing that they too are poor and in need.”

Too often, he says, “the real poor are revealed as those who refuse to see themselves as such. … This is because they are slaves to sin, which leads them to use wealth and power not for the service of God and others, but to stifle within their hearts the profound sense that they too are only poor beggars.”

The organizing principle of the Lenten message is mercy — just as it is the hallmark of this pontificate and the theme of the special Holy Year jubilee that Francis inaugurated last month.


RELATED STORY: What’s that Jubilee Year of Mercy the pope keeps talking about?


“For all of us, then, the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year is a favorable time to overcome our existential alienation by listening to God’s word and by practicing the works of mercy,” he writes.

“These works remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbors in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting and instructing them. On such things will we be judged.”

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which is Feb. 10 this year, and runs until Holy Week, which starts the observances leading up to Easter Sunday on March 27.

Lent echoes the 40 days that the Gospels say Jesus spent in the desert, enduring temptations by the devil before Jesus began the public ministry that would end in his crucifixion and, Christians believe, resurrection.

(David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS)

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  • G Key

    … We indulge our most antisocial addiction: “I’ll decide your story, your character, your worthiness, and your just deserts.”

    And we humbly thank God for our superior wisdom.

    The megalomaniacal mainline that we’re better qualified than they to define, judge, and run their lives is not the kind of high that I would expect to hook today’s healthy heads. Still, I wouldn’t suppose we’d seek to sacrifice our traditional trespasses this century. Not as long as we think we’re the white knights in the War against Equal.

    You don’t have to be nuts to note that some moral causes are more moral than others.

  • “The greater their power and wealth, the more this blindness and deception can grow,” – POPE FRANCIS

    Says the Director one of the world’s richest institutions!
    Yet he has no moral authority!
    Hey Pope – Surrender the Kingpin of the Boston Priest Pedophile Syndicate,
    Cardinal Bernard Law, who lives in your fancy suite in the Vatican!

  • Fran

    The entire world of mankind has been, and remains, a slave to sin and death (Romans 5:12) but at death, are destined to be in the grave, not aware of anything (Eccl. 9:5,6,10). No one suffers in a place of fiery torment forever, not even the wicked. They just die, like the meek do.

  • Betty Clermont

    Exactly. The biggest unreported (in the US) bombshell of the two new books about financial corruption in this pontificate is that hundreds of millions euro donated for charity are being withheld from the poor by this pope. After the authors were indicted by the Vatican and the defense attorneys called as witnesses two of the prelates handling the pope’s “charities,” the trial was postponed – probably forever.

  • MarkE

    “This is because they are slaves to sin, which leads them to use wealth and power not for the service of God and others, but to stifle within their hearts the profound sense that they too are only poor beggars.”

    Sounds very similar to what Martin Luther believed about the human condition and need for the unmerited grace of God through Jesus Christ. And it’s as true today as it was 500 years ago (and before that!)

  • Oakland Ben

    Francis. dear me.

    “Pope Francis is taking direct aim at the wealthy and powerful of the world, saying in his message for Lent that they are often “slaves to sin” who, if they ignore the poor, “will end up condemning themselves and plunging into the eternal abyss of solitude which is hell.”

    Says a very rich and powerful man, leader of 1.2 billion people, who lives in a palace in the center of Rome, surrounded by Art. Or sometimes on a lovely lake in a castle. And who hasn’t gone hungry in quite a while, if ever. Surrounded by people who thinks he talks to God.

    Have you ever read Hadrian VII, Frank? you ought to. And soon.

    This is no different from four times bankrupt billionaire 2Rump masquerading as just one of the guys, an apropos representative of the working class. or Two Corinthians 2Rump masquerading as a godly man who loves the bible even more than his own books, but had to ask Tony Perkins for a quote.

    Step right up!

  • Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Greed for wealth, properties and money is a very tiring exercise. It takes away our energies and prepares us for an early send off and a permanent good-bye. Moreover one never sees containers of wealth following the procession of the deceased on his or her way to the graveyard or crematorium.

  • Pascalwb

    And what should he sell these historical buildings in rome to private companies or something?

  • @Pascalwb,

    The Pope should sell the Vatican to the Italian Government which should in return open it as a museum to a long lost mythical God.

    It happened to the Acropolis and the Pyramids. It should happen to the Vatican.

  • Ben in oakland

    You,ve missed my point entirely. congratulations.

  • The Wiseman

    The Bishop of Rome (this is his true title) is wrong when he claims that “the eternal abyss of solitude which is hell.” The Bible proves him wrong. See Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_of_fire . Not only does Christianity specifically say this, but also the ancient Egyptian religions.

  • Simone Meeker

    I guess you don’t know that Pope Francis has chosen not to live in the Vatican. Instead he lives in a modest apartment. He refuses to live in the usual Papal wealth and prefers to live a Jesus chose to. All the other Popes have lived as you described and I had as much respect for them as you do. But I truly respect Pope Francis. Perhaps you would be interested to read more about him. He’s different.

  • patrick

    Francis doesn’t live in the Vatican papal apartment so as to avoid being assassinated in his bed as was an earlier reformer – Pope John Paul I in Sept 1978….

  • Ken

    I am amazed at how some people take words of love and mercy and turn them into hate and injustice. The Vicar of Christ, the Pope, is a man who has been given the Keys to the Kingdom, through apostolic succession. What he binds on earth will be bound in heaven and what he unbindes on earth will be unbound in heaven. His messsages are of love and mercy but he also points out that there is a hell in which life eternal will be life separated from God and his merciful love. This appears to be an issue with those who are desperate and do not have hope for life eternal in heaven. I’ll pray for your souls that God is merciful to you.

  • Evon

    “the Gospels say”
    “,Christians believe,”

    I bet these phrases were added by a liberal editor looking to appease any non-Christians who may read the story and…look out, now…be offended (but let’s not identify the intolerance that creates such offense because we have to capitulate to them).

  • Buzzy

    That is because he is an atheist.

  • ben in oakland

    Not max.

  • HOW DARE THE POPE TALK ABOUT HELL?
    Where is this Hell he speaks of? Show me! I demand to know!
    Where is this God he yammers about??

    Why do people take this stuff sitting down!?

  • patrick

    “‘ ….and he has called the “unfettered pursuit of money” the “dung of the devil.” “‘
    As such – The Vatican is the largest ” dung heap ” the world has ever known….

    http://www.npr.org/2015/01/30/382374060/from-laundering-to-profiteering-a-multitude-of-sins-at-the-vatican-bank

  • Doug

    Ken, don’t believe your local Catholic priest or the Pope. The Catholic church is not based on scripture, it is mostly tradition. Any Catholic priest will tell you that. The Pope isn’t what you think he is.

    An article in the April 18, 1915, issue of Our Sunday Visitor  a Catholic journal. had the following question and answer:
    What are the letters on the Pope’s crown, and what do they signify, if anything?
    The letters on the Pope’s crown are these: Vicarius Filii Dei, which is a Latin for ‘Vicar of the Son of God.
    The literal meaning of Vicarius: substituting for, or in place of. 
    According to the New Testament Greek Lexicon or
    Strong’s Concordance Number:   473 = anti
    Definition of anti
    1. over against, opposite to, before
    2. for, instead of, in place of (something)
    a. instead of
    b. for
    c. for that, because
    d. wherefore, for this cause

    The words in place of are both associated with Vicar (Vicarius) and…

  • Doug

    The words in place of are both associated with Vicar (Vicarius) and anti.
    Vicar of Christ means Antichrist.

  • Norman Clairmont

    Betty Clermont
    Would you please give us the title of the 2 new books