Vatican City, 4 December 2014 (VIS) – The image of a Church at work in the service of those in difficulty is promoted by the Federation of Christian Organisations for International Volunteer Service (FOCSIV), which seeks to combine the accumulated experience of its members with the dimension of voluntary service to the poor in the style of the good Samaritan and according to Gospel values. Starting from their Christian identity, they are “volunteers in the world”, offering many development projects to offer concrete responses to the “scandals” of hunger and war. Pope Francis emphasised these characteristics in his address to two thousand members of the federation in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall this morning.
“Your work alongside men and women in difficulty is a living announcement of the tenderness of Christ, Who walks alongside humanity in all times”, affirmed the Pope. “There is a great need to bear witness to the value of gratuity: the poor must not become an opportunity for profit! The face of poverty is changing nowadays, and there are those among the poor who are developing different expectations: they aspire to be protagonists, they are organised, and above all they practise that solidarity that exists between those who suffer, between those who are left behind. You are called upon to perceive these signs of the times and to become an instrument of service to assist in enabling leadership among the poor. Solidarity with the poor means thinking in terms of community, of the priority of the life of all above the appropriation of goods by the few. It also means combating the structural causes of poverty: inequality, unemployment and homelessness, and the denial of social and working rights. Solidarity is a way of making history with the poor, avoiding supposedly altruistic works that reduce others to passivity”.
Among the main causes of poverty, Francis did not neglect to mention the existence of an economic system that exploits natural resources. “I think in particular of deforestation, but also of environmental disasters and the loss of biodiversity. It is necessary to reaffirm that creation is not property from which we can derive pleasure and dispose of as we please, and much less the property of just a few. Creation is a marvellous gift that God has given us for us to take care of and use for the benefit of all, with respect. I therefore encourage you to continue in your commitment to ensuring that creation remains the patrimony of all, to be handed on in all its beauty to future generations”.
Many of the countries where the FOCSIV works are at war, and the Pope emphasised that working for the development of the people also means cooperating in building peace, “seeking with tenacious perseverance to disarm minds, to draw closer to people, to build bridges between cultures and religions. Faith will help you to do this even in the most difficult countries, where the spiral of violence no longer seems to leave space for reason. A sign of peace and hope is your activity in refugee camps, where you encounter desperate people, faces marked by abuse, children who hunger for food, freedom and a future. How many people in the world flee from the horrors of war! How many people are persecuted for their faith, forced to abandon their homes, their places of worship, their homelands, their loved ones! How many broken lives! How much suffering, how much destruction! Faced with all of this, a disciple of Christ cannot step or turn away, but instead seeks to take care of this suffering humanity with evangelical closeness and acceptance”.
The Pope reiterated his concerns for migrants and refugees, who “seek to flee from hard living conditions and dangers of every type”, and insisted on the need for collaboration between “institutions, NGOs and ecclesial communities, to promote itineraries of harmonious co-existence between different peoples and cultures. “Migratory movements require adequate forms of reception that do not leave migrants at the mercy of the sea and bands of unscrupulous traffickers. At the same time, there is a need for active collaboration between States to regulate and effectively manage such phenomena”.
Finally, Francis thanked the volunteers of the Federation who, for more than forty years, have shown themselves to be “true witnesses of charity, workers of peace, builders of justice and solidarity”, and, encouraging them to continue in their progress, he invited them to find time each day for a personal encounter with God in prayer. “It will be your strength in moments of greatest difficulty, disappointment, solitude and incomprehension”.