The war in Ukraine and the energy crisis featured prominently in this year’s World Day of the Poor, with 1,300 people in need attending a Mass presented by Pope Francis and a joint Vatican lunch on Sunday.
“Instead of solutions that increase the wealth of the few, we must light the lights of hope in the darkness by building a more fraternal world. The third world war is now under way, and instead of fear-induced paralysis, everyone must ask themselves what good they can do,” the pope said during the Mass.
The pope said that today’s society is also wounded and full of violence, injustice, and persecution; he asked those in attendance to think of the “cruelty suffered by the Ukrainian people.”
Families, lonely elderly people, and people living in shelters and on the streets sat in the pews of St Peter’s Basilica for the Mass celebrated by Pope Francis. Due to the pandemic, the participants came almost exclusively from the Roman diocese, accompanied by volunteers from parishes and church organizations.
Pope Francis introduced the World Day for the Poor in 2017, which falls each year on the Sunday closest to the feast of St Martin of Pannonia. In his homily at the Mass, Pope Francis said that we must break the “inner deafness that prevents us from hearing the muffled cries of pain of the weakest.”
Among the causes of contemporary poverty, he cited economic, social, and psychological changes caused by pandemics and climate change, wars between nations, poverty caused by migration, unemployment, and undignified working conditions.
He said that the poor are still the victims of every crisis. He urged the Church, politicians, and society to “look at the forgotten, dark corners of cities to see the loneliness and misery.”
Pope Francis spoke again in his homily about the “martyred” Ukrainian people, saying that “peace is possible, let us not get involved in war.” He quoted the Russian writer Dostoevsky, who said that we should not fear the sins of men and that we should love the sinner.
After the Mass, attendees had lunch with Pope Francis in the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall.