We have a new bishop of Rome, or rather the Romans have a new bishop, the rest of us have a new Pope. The bishop that leads the Universal Church in Charity chose Francis as his name, after the great Saint of the poor, lover of nature. Imagination has started to take the lead on many of us! No golden cross, we will be having a poor Church …at last.
“We are in for having a poor Church!” Some people on the radio have already started expressing their delight that finally the churches would be stripped of its riches. Contrast with the Gospel teaching is the main argument! “The Church should sell everything to feed the poor.” It’s quite a very interesting road map, very short sighted, but at least nothing that involves me or my lifestyle. And what if the Pope said that Catholics should follow him in leading a simple life filled with charity and love for one’s neighbour?
Our Churches are full of riches. That is a fact and we should thank God for that! They are there to witness the great faith and reverence that our fathers had for their God and a way to express their communitarian love towards the Church. It was their way to express themselves, as an expression of abundance, not of wealth but of love. Poor people felt the need to contribute for the common good. They had a sense of community where the neighbour wasn’t a foreigner.
Society has changed. There was a rise in our standard of living, and for sure that is a great plus. In becoming less dependent on each other, individualism started to raise its head. Everyone has to make his effort to succeed. It is the law of the jungle, the survival of the fittest. And that is where the poor come in. We have a growing portion of society which is either poor or falling into poverty.
For centuries the Catholic Church was, and still is, the champion of Charity. Taking Malta as an example the Church was always the pioneer in helping the needy. It founded hospitals, orphanages, confraternities, schools, homes for the elderly and also the leading protagonist in founding the University. In modern times the Church was the front runner in giving people with disability their rightful place in society. Through various agencies it is helping people who are falling victim of new realities in our society.
Christ elevated the poor and gave them dignity. In His eyes every person is important. Every person is invited to partake of the bounty of creation. The taking care of the marginalised, the weak and the poor, is central in the Christian faith and living. In no way can one call himself a Christian and at the same time be indifferent to others who are in need. There must be a genuine interest and a reach out in the lines that Saint Francis did in medieval times.
All this is making the Church meddle with a lot of money. Running all the mentioned initiatives and institutions means that thousands if not millions of euros stain its balance sheets. This gives the impression that the Church is after money, a cross that it has to carry if she wants to keep elevating the poor.
I really believe that the Church should remain a front runner in helping the needy not as a charitable institution but as a response of love through our faith in the Lord. On the other hand the Church has the role to elevate the whole of humanity towards the Creator. In no way should the Church stop being the cradle and salt of civilisation that as a by-product is resulting in the gathering of great expression of art and artefacts which in the eyes of the man in the street are seen as riches.
Being a poor Church for the poor will make us much richer!