Solidarity With Very Poor Called a New Form of Evangelization

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The Vatican nuncio to the United Nations spoke with clear conviction and a special sense of mission as he affirmed Pope Francis’ call to help the world’s poorest of God’s children become “dignified agents of their own destiny.”

Archbishop Bernardito Auza delivered his remarks Sept. 23 during a CAPP-USA Fordham University Conference at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus.

The daylong event featured speakers who focused on the pope’s call, voiced during his address at the United Nations last September, to help the extreme poor escape poverty.

The conference was organized by Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice-USA (CAPP-USA) and the Fordham University Graduate Program in International Political Economy and Development (IPED).

“It is a new evangelization, a celebration of the Gospel,” said Archbishop Auza, referring to the pope’s call. “It is at the heart of the faith, it is at the heart of the Gospel…In his speeches the Holy Father always centers on this: to take care of the need of those in need, especially those in most need.”

The archbishop, a native of the Philippines, noted that the secular international community, over the past decade, has become more aware of the important role that faith-based projects play in uplifting the very poor—and that more attention is being paid to the favorable results.

Archbishop Auza discussed the need to counter the globalization of indifference, so that world leaders and peoples develop a more caring approach to address poverty’s devastating effects—and he spoke of guarding against excessive consumerism while the very poor suffer.

The solution, the archbishop said, is to work more toward integral human development. There must be proactive solidarity with the very poor, he noted, to counter this age of individualism. As for critics who have said this sounds like communism, Archbishop Auza noted there is no comparison because the pope’s message is faith-based. “We all know the results of communism,” he added. 

In the coming years, he said, there should be a culture of encounter—more community with those trapped in extreme poverty; there should be preferential options for the poor; and there should be more efforts to provide “land, roof and work (in the pope’s Spanish 3T’s: tierra, techo, trabajo).” Countries cited included several in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East. 

The evening before, also at Fordham, a speech by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state, was read at an opening dinner attended by conference participants. Cardinal Dolan delivered the invocation.

In his address, Cardinal Parolin said that “material destitution…offends the human person created in the image of God.” He called on Christians to help people in need, all the while respecting their dignity.

About 125 people attended the next day’s conference. CAPP-USA is the American arm of the Vatican foundation for the promotion of the Church’s social teaching.

Conference speakers included Fordham President Father Joseph M. McShane, S.J., Fordham professor Henry Schwalbenberg and Liliana Carvajal, monitoring specialist for research and policy at UNICEF.

Father McShane, in affirming the conference goals, said that worldwide Pope Francis “has established himself as a moral authority.” He said the Church, led by the pope, is spreading its moral message “in gesture and in dialogue,” such as when the pope washes the feet of the very poor.

Professor Schwalbenberg spoke of the need for more special projects related to water and food, housing and employment, education, religious freedom and other civil liberties. Religious freedom, he said, has been shown to lead to reduction in corruption and improved business opportunities. 

In her remarks Ms. Carvajal focused on dire child mortality rates and the need for a stepped-up international effort to drastically reduce the deadly predicament stemming from epidemics of preventable diseases.

She spoke about developing programs to help the very poor survive, thrive and be transformed: to end preventable diseases, ensure better health and wellbeing, and expand enabling environments.

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