Pope Francis concludes the second day of his Apostolic Journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo by meeting representatives from several charities in Kinshasa, and thanks them for their precious work for the most vulnerable.
Addressing a group of representatives of some charities in Kinshasa’s Apostolic Nunciature on Wednesday, Pope Francis praised their work which, he said, is like a forest silently growing and bearing fruit, amid the “noise” of ongoing violence and injustice.
The six charities
Attending the meeting were operators and beneficiaries of six charitable organizations and institutions who described their experiences and presented their activities in the fields of healthcare, education, and human development for the poor and marginalized. These included people affected by various types of disabilities, by Hansen’s disease and other illnesses.
Among them, the DREAM Center (Disease Relief through Excellent and Advanced Means) of the Community of Sant’Egidio, the Fasta Association, an Argentinan-based humanitarian organization, whose objective is the social promotion and inclusion of marginalized people through integral formation and community participation, and “Telema Ongenge”, a local association supporting disabled people to improve their life conditions. Also present were the Trappist nuns of Our Lady of Mvanda, in Kikwit.
Pope Francis meeting people assisted by the charities he met in the Nuntiature
Embracing the poor, people with names and faces
Pope Francis commended their work, remarking that the testimonies didn’t simply list social problems or statistics on poverty, “but more importantly spoke with affection about the poor”, people “with names and faces”, whom Christians, “cannot turn their backs on”.
“While so many today dismiss the poor, you embrace them; while the world exploits them, you encourage them. Encouragement versus exploitation: Here is a forest that is growing, even as deforestation and waste runs rampant! I would like to make better known what you are doing, to promote growth and hope in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and on this entire continent. I came here out of a desire to be a voice for the voiceless.”
Poverty an offence against human beings
Noting that the media unfortunately don’t give much space to the “immense talents” and stories “of true human and Christian grandeur” in the DRC, and Africa as a whole, Pope Francis said that by meeting them he wants to give “voice” to this reality and to the suffering of the many men and women, enduring violence, abuse, discrimination and marginalization in the country.
“Poverty and rejection are an offence against human beings, robbing them of their dignity”, the Pope reiterated. “Only by restoring dignity do we restore humanity”.
He added that he was also saddened to learn that in the DRC too, children and the elderly are discarded saying that this is scandalous as they represent the roots and future of every society.
“True human development cannot flourish where there is no memory or future.”
Pope Francis went telling those present that, despite difficulties, their arduous work is worth their while, as proven by their stories, showing that “goodness spreads” and “is not paralyzed by resignation or statistics, but impels us to give others what we ourselves freely received”.
“Young people in particular need to see this”, he stressed. “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”.
“True charity attunes us to God and He surprises us with unexpected wonders through those he loves.”
Christians must never sully the witness of charity
Pope Francis further insisted, that while the responsibility of healthcare and education and of caring for the most vulnerable, lies primarily with the State, “believers in Christ must never sully the witness of charity”, and therefore must “share what they have with those who lack the bare necessities”, remembering that “what causes poverty is not so much the absence of goods and opportunities, but their unequal distribution”.
This, he emphasized, “is not philanthropy, but faith” for “as Scripture says, ‘faith without works is dead’.”
Pope Francis recalled that for Christian charity to become an ever more fruitful form of witness of Jesus’ love for the poor, three criteria must be followed by Catholic charities. The first is “setting an example”, by being credible and transparent in managing their finances and being competent.
Making the poor self-reliant
The second criterion is that of “having foresight”, which is not just providing for the immediate needs of the poor, but looking to the long term, promoting development projects that allow them to become self-sufficient in the future, which is what the Church in DRC and many other parts of the world is doing through its welfare services.
“Rather than distributing goods that will always be in short supply, it is better to transmit knowledge and the tools that make development autonomous and sustainable.”
Networking for the poor
Finally, the third criterion recalled by Pope Francis for Christian charity to be fruitful and effective, is that of Catholic organizations being connected, networking together and cooperating with each other, and with Christian communities, other religions, and humanitarian organizations “without remaining isolated or self-referential”.
Concluding Pope Francis blessed the Catholic charities in DRC and once again thanked them for their precious work: “You are a great treasure”, he said.
By Lisa Zengarini , Vatican news