Pope Francis to Congolese Charities: ‘It’s Not Philanthropy, But Faith’
The Pope emphasized that charity, in the Christian sense, is about raising people ‘back up to their dignity’ rather than treating those in need like statistics.
In a meeting with Catholic Congolese charities on Wednesday, Pope Francis praised the work being done to assist those in poverty and emphasized the importance of Christian charity as an integral part of the faith.
“What causes poverty is not so much the absence of goods and opportunities but their unequal distribution,” the pontiff said at the apostolic nunciature in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He gave his speech after hearing testimony from representatives from various charities and meeting with some of the workers and people who receive care from them.
“Those who are prosperous, especially if they are Christians, are challenged to share what they have with those who lack the bare necessities, and all the more so if they are members of the same people,” the Pope continued. “This is not a matter of benevolence, but of justice. It is not philanthropy, but faith. For, as Scripture says, ‘Faith without works is dead.’”
The Pope emphasized that charity, in the Christian sense, is about raising people “back up to their dignity” rather than treating those in need like statistics. He expressed gratitude that the people who do this work “are able to see Jesus in the least of his brothers and sisters.”
“You did not simply list social problems or provide me with statistics on poverty, but more importantly you spoke with affection about the poor,” the pontiff continued. “You spoke about yourselves and about people you did not know before, but who have now become familiar to you; people with names and faces.”
“I am grateful that you are able to see Jesus in the least of his brothers and sisters. The Lord is to be sought and loved in the poor and we, as Christians, must take care not to turn our backs on them,” he said, adding: “There is something wrong when a believer keeps Christ’s loved ones at a distance.”
In his speech, Pope Francis said the work done by these charitable organizations is “wonderful but by no means easy.” After referencing testimonies that he said were full of “stupendous happenings” that are “impossible to attribute merely to human strength,” he said it is certainly worth it.
“Goodness is like that, it spreads; it is not paralyzed by resignation or statistics but impels us to give others what we ourselves freely received,” the Pope said. “Young people in particular need to see this: They need to see faces that overcome indifference by looking people in the eye, and hands that do not wield weapons or misuse money but reach out to those who are down on the ground and raise them back up to their dignity, the dignity of a daughter and son of God.”
The Pope met with survivors of ongoing violence in eastern Congo earlier Wednesday during his six-day trip to Africa. When meeting with the charities, he highlighted that the violence may be more noticeable to people but that the important work of the charitable groups is making a difference.
“In this country, where the sound of violence is heard like the loud crash of a felled tree, you are the forest that quietly grows each day and makes the air clean and breathable,” Pope Francis said. “Naturally, a falling tree makes more noise, but God loves and blesses the generosity that silently sprouts and bears fruit, and he looks with joy upon all those who serve the needy. That is how goodness grows: in the simplicity of hands and hearts stretched out to others and in the courage of small steps that approach the poor and vulnerable in the name of Jesus.”