(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis held his weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday, during which he exhorted the faithful and all people of good will to renewed and strengthened personal commitment to the often dire needs of our neighbors, especially those who are hungry and thirsty.
The Holy Father was speaking to pilgrims and tourists gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the occasion, during which he reflected on the first of the Corporal Works of Mercy: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty.
The Pope emphasized the need not only for personal commitment to causes like eradicating hunger and guaranteeing access to food and water, but for personal commitment to the people who are hungry – many of whom are our neighbors and fellow citizens.
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“Access to food and water is a basic human right, yet so many members of our human family, especially children, continue to suffer from hunger and thirst,” said Pope Francis. “While grateful for the generosity and solidarity shown in the case of many tragic situations worldwide,” he continued, “we must never forget that this work of mercy calls us to respond personally to concrete situations of need in our own lives.”
Departing from his prepared text, Pope Francis said, “Poverty in the abstract does not challenge us: it makes us think, makes us complain; but when we see poverty in the flesh of a man, a woman, a child, this challenges us – and therefore, that habit we have fleeing the needy, of not approaching them, covering up somewhat the reality of the needy with fashionable habits, so as to avoid contact with needy people.”
“There is,” said Pope Francis, “no longer any distance between me and the poor person when I bump into him.”