Serve, accompany, advocate: the three words are the programme of work for Jesuits and their collaborators.
To serve means to welcome people who arrive here with care; it means to bend down to one in need and to extend your hand to him, without reservations, without fear, with tenderness and understanding, as Jesus bent down to wash the feet of the Apostles. To serve means to work alongside the neediest, first of all to establish a close human relationship with them, based on solidarity.
Pope Francis meets with people at the JRS Italy soup kitchen in Via degli Astalli, Rome (Photograph: Alessia Giuliani, JRS)
It's not enough to give a sandwich if it isn't accompanied by the possibility of learning to stand on one’s own feet. Charity that does not change the situation of the poor isn't enough. True mercy, which God gives and teaches us, calls for justice, for a way in which the poor can find a way out of poverty
To serve, to accompany means also to defend; it means to be on the side of the weakest. We frequently speak up in defence of our own rights; but how often are we indifferent to the rights of others? How often do we fail, or not wish, to give voice to those who have suffered and suffer, to those who have seen their rights trampled upon, or to those who have experienced so much violence that even their desire for justice has been suffocated?
It's important for the whole Church that the welcome of the poor and the promotion of justice are not entrusted only to "specialists," but that they are the focus of attention of all pastoral work, of the formation of future priests and other religious, and of the normal commitment of all parishes, movements and Church groups.
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