Pope Francis will visit Assisi, Italy, on Nov. 12, where he will spend time with a group of 500 poor people from across Europe, the Vatican announced Friday.
The encounter will take place as part of the Catholic Church’s celebration of the 5th annual World Day of the Poor, which falls this year on Sunday, Nov. 14.
According to the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, which is organizing the meeting, Pope Francis will make a private visit to the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis.
The pope will then meet a group of 500 poor people, praying with them and listening to their experiences.
The theme of this year’s World Day of the Poor is “The poor you will always have with you,” the words of Jesus recorded in Mark 14:7 after a woman anointed him with precious ointment.
Pope Francis established the World Day of the Poor in his apostolic letter Misericordia et misera, issued in 2016 at the end of the Church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy.
The idea came about, he explained, during the Jubilee for Socially Excluded People.
“At the conclusion of the Jubilee of Mercy, I wanted to offer the Church a World Day of the Poor, so that throughout the world Christian communities can become an ever greater sign of Christ’s charity for the least and those most in need,” the pope wrote in his first World Day of the Poor message in 2017.
The Day is celebrated each year on the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, a week before the Feast of Christ the King.
In his message for this year’s celebration, released in June, Pope Francis appealed for a new global approach to poverty.
He also said democracy is threatened when the poor are marginalized and treated as if they are to blame for their condition.
“This is a challenge that governments and world institutions need to take up with a farsighted social model capable of countering the new forms of poverty that are now sweeping the world and will decisively affect coming decades,” he wrote.
“If the poor are marginalized, as if they were to blame for their condition, then the very concept of democracy is jeopardized and every social policy will prove bankrupt.”
The pope also lamented what he said was an increasing tendency to dismiss the poor against the background of the coronavirus crisis.
“There seems to be a growing notion that the poor are not only responsible for their condition, but that they represent an intolerable burden for an economic system focused on the interests of a few privileged groups,” he commented.
“A market that ignores ethical principles, or picks and chooses from among them, creates inhumane conditions for people already in precarious situations,” he said. “We are now seeing the creation of new traps of poverty and exclusion, set by unscrupulous economic and financial actors lacking in a humanitarian sense and in social responsibility.”