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Filipino Catholics mark ‘World Day of the Poor,’ urged to aid victims of recent disasters

"We help not only with what is extra for us, but even with what we need, because others are more in need"

Catholic Church leaders in the Philippines called on the faithful on Sunday, November 15, to help those most in need in the wake of disasters that hit the country in recent weeks.

“These calamities are strong calls for us to help one another,” said Bishop Broderick Pabillo, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila during the observance of the “World Day of the Poor.”

“We help not only with what is extra for us, but even with what we need, because others are more in need,” said the prelate in his homily during Mass on Sunday.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has earlier declared November 15 as “Alay Kapwa Sunday,” or a day to help the poor, which is usually observed during Lent.

“Alay Kapwa” is a yearly campaign of the Catholic Church that supports the social services for the poor and the needy especially during times of disaster.

Bishop Pabillo, who also heads the Commission on the Laity, said everyone is being challenged “to stand up together and put our resources together and help.”

He reminded the faithful that the blessings they received from the Lord is not only for them. “It is also for others. Let us use it for others,” said the Manila prelate.

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He said that whatever one gives to help others is “deposited in heaven … in exchange of heavenly gains.”

“Let us invest what we have so that we may gain real wealth,” said Bishop Pabillo. “Let us share our earthly wealth so that we can gain new, higher, and heavenly wealth,” he said.

The World Day of the Poor was established by Pope Francis when he issued his Apostolic Letter, “Misericordia et Misera” on Nov. 20, 2016, to mark the “Extraordinary Year of Mercy.”

It is celebrated every 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time of the calendar of the Catholic Church.

On this day, the faithful are called to do acts of charity for those who are in most need of material goods and resources.

Churches around the world will conduct a “second collection” during Masses to fund relief operations in disaster-stricken areas.

In the Archdiocese of Manila, parishes, communities, and lay organizations have been urged to mark the occasion by giving five kilograms of rice to poor families in their respective territories.

Pope Francis speaks during the weekly general audience, held virtually due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, at the Vatican, August 19, 2020. Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS

Pope reminds faithful of responsibility to help poor

In a message released earlier for the observance of the World Day of the Poor, Pope Francis reminded the faithful to revive the “sense of responsibility” for the poor.

The pontiff said the coronavirus pandemic “has made us all the more aware of the presence of the poor in our midst and their need for help.”

“The silent cry of so many poor men, women, and children should find the people of God at the forefront, always and everywhere, in efforts to give them a voice, to protect and support them in the face of hypocrisy and so many unfulfilled promises, and to invite them to share in the life of the community,” read the message.

Pope Francis acknowledged that “the Church certainly has no comprehensive solutions to propose,” but she can “offer her witness and her gestures of charity.”

“She likewise feels compelled to speak out on behalf of those who lack life’s basic necessities,” added the pope.

He said the pandemic made us “feel poorer and less self-sufficient because we have come to sense our limitations and the restriction of our freedom.”

“The loss of employment, and of opportunities to be close to our loved ones and our regular acquaintances, suddenly opened our eyes to horizons that we had long since taken for granted,” he said.

The pope said that this year’s theme of the celebration of the World Day of the Poor — “Stretch forth your hand to the poor” — “is thus a summons to responsibility and commitment as men and women who are part of our one human family.”

“We have been unable to be close to those who suffer, and at the same time, we have become more aware of the fragility of our own lives. The word of God allows for no complacency; it constantly impels us to acts of love,” the pontiff said.

Pope Francis criticized “those who prefer to keep their hands in their pockets and to remain unmoved by situations of poverty in which they are often complicit.”

He said some hands are stretched “to touch computer keys to transfer sums of money” that ensures “the wealth of an elite few and the dire poverty of millions and the ruin of entire nations.”

He lambasted the hands that “accumulate money by the sale of weapons that others, including those of children, use to sow death and poverty.”

“Other hands are outstretched to deal doses of death in dark alleys in order to grow rich and live in luxury and excess, or to quietly pass a bribe for the sake of quick and corrupt gain,” he added.

The pope said the “globalization of indifference” has made people “incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor.”

“We cannot be happy until these hands that sow death are transformed into instruments of justice and peace for the whole world,” he said.

The pontiff expressed that in order to achieve the fullness of human life, our hands must perform the acts of “generosity that supports the weak, consoles the afflicted, relieves suffering, and restores dignity to those stripped of it.”

“Keeping our gaze fixed on the poor is difficult, but more necessary than ever if we are to give proper direction to our personal life and the life of society,” he said.

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