Vatican City, 4 February 2014 (VIS) – A press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office this morning to present the Holy Father's Message for Lent 2014. The speakers were Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso and Msgr. Segundo Tejado Munoz, respectively secretary and under-secretary of the same dicastery, and the couple Davide Dotta and Anna Zumbo, missionaries in Haiti.
Before the presentation, the president of Cor Unum announced that he will visit Haiti again in March, in order to open a school financed on behalf of the Pope as a sign of his closeness to the Haitian population, afflicted in 2010 by an earthquake which claimed more than 220,000 victims and affected a total of more than 3 million people.
Cardinal Sarah then went on to explain that the text of this year's Message from the Pope for Lent focuses on poverty, and Christ's poverty in particular; a concept very dear to Pope Francis, who since the beginning of his pontificate has attempted to emphasise this dimension of Christian life. “Certainly, the Christian vision of poverty is not the same as that which is commonly held. Too often we consider poverty from a sociological perspective, and it is understood as a lack of material goods. Furthermore, the concept of a “poor Church for the poor” is often evoked as a sort of challenge to the Church, unfortunately also setting a Church of the poor, a good Church … against a Church of preaching and truth, a Church dedicated to prayer and to the defence of doctrine and morals”.
“The first point of reference for a Christian to understand poverty is indeed Christ, who made himself poor so that he could enrich us through his poverty. … The choice of poverty by Christ suggests to us that there exists a positive dimension of poverty; this resonates throughout the Gospel, which proclaims that the poor are blessed. It is clear that in this dimension of poverty there is an aspect of despoliation and sacrifice. But this is possible because 'Jesus’ wealth lies in his being the Son'. We cannot set our bourgeois consciences at rest, the Pope means, by denouncing material lack on the part of others or denouncing poverty as a system. … The Lenten Message we are presenting here today makes an important distinction between poverty and destitution. It is not poverty, which is an evangelical attitude, but rather destitution that we wish to combat. The Holy Father, in his Message, lists three forms of destitution: material, moral and spiritual. The first 'affects those living in conditions opposed to human dignity'. Faced with this form of destitution, the Church offers her service, 'her diakonia, in meeting these needs and binding these wounds which disfigure the face of humanity'. Moral destitution consists in slavery to vice and sin. This form of destitution is also the cause of economic ruin, and is always linked to spiritual destitution, which occurs when we drift away from God and refuse His love”.
“I believe that this broad view of poverty, of destitution, and as a consequence the help that the Church may offer humanity, help us also to arrive at a more complete vision of man and his needs, without falling in the trap of anthropological reductionism which claims to resolve all the problems of the human person simply by resolving the problems of physical and material well-being”.
The president of Cor Unum recalled that in the Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium”, Pope Francis writes that “Our preferential option for the poor must mainly translate into a privileged and preferential religious care”. He affirmed that this concept is fundamental “so as not to transform the Church into that non-governmental organisation that Pope Francis spoke about in his first Holy Mass as Pontiff with the Cardinal Fathers. It would be a great pity if our gaze upon those in need failed to acknowledge the spiritual poverty that often lurks in the heart of man and pains him deeply, even though he may be in a condition of material comfort. … But if we wish to fully grasp Pope Francis' Message, we must not consider it only in terms of its anthropological value. Man is by nature the son of God. This is his wealth! The great flaw of modern culture is that it has imagined mankind capable of being happy without God, thus denying that which is most profound in the human person: that is, his existential bond with the Father Who grants him life. … Thus, it is a crime to deprive the poor of the presence of God, just as it is a crime to consider man and allow man to live as if God did not exist, to negate his being as a creation and therefore his fundamental belonging and affiliation with God. … Therefore, work in development cannot be simply that of creating new needs, but rather taking a serious look at what the person truly is”.