World Day of the Poor

"A great river of poverty is traversing our cities and swelling to the point of overflowing; it seems to overwhelm us, so great are the needs of our brothers and sisters who plead for our help, support, and solidarity." - Pope Francis

Sunday, November 19, 2023, is the World Day of the Poor, a day established by Pope Francis in 2017 for Catholics to "reflect on how poverty is at the very heart of the Gospel." The theme for 2023 is "Do not turn your face away from anyone who is poor" (Tob 4:7)

"Whenever we encounter a poor person, we cannot look away, for that would prevent us from encountering the face of the Lord Jesus. Let us carefully consider his words: “from anyone who is poor." Everyone is our neighbor. Regardless of the color of their skin, their social standing, the place from which they came, if I myself am poor, I can recognize my brothers or sisters in need of my help. We are called to acknowledge every poor person and every form of poverty, abandoning the indifference and the banal excuses we make to protect our illusory well-being.," Pope Francis said in his World Day of the Poor message. 

Why Pope Francis established the day in 2017

After the Year of Mercy, the pope said he wanted to set aside a day so that, throughout the world, Christian communities could become even greater signs of Christ's charity for those in need.  We are called, Pope Francis wrote in his first World Day of the Poor message, "to draw near to the poor, to encounter them, to meet their gaze, to embrace them, and to let them feel the warmth of love that breaks through their solitude. Their outstretched hand is also an invitation to step out of our certainties and comforts, and to acknowledge the value of poverty in itself."

The pope said that for Christ's disciples, "poverty is, above all, a call to follow Jesus in his own poverty," and he asked Catholics to take as their example Saint Francis of Assisi, who kept his gaze fixed on Christ, allowing him to see and serve the poor.

Message from Bishop Robert Deeley

The experience of poverty takes many forms. It affects many of us. We might encounter it when we feel impoverished because of loneliness due to separation from family, friends, or our faith. Or, it may have been an experience of material poverty, when we have struggled to make ends meet and pay our bills.

On the World Day of the Poor (November 19), Pope Francis invites us to especially reflect on the latter. He calls us to be attentive to the many in our local communities and our world who lack access to necessities such as nutritious food, adequate housing, or healthcare.

According to 2021 census figures, more than 11% of Maine families live below the poverty line. It is a striking number but one that just begins to tell the story of the struggles faced by many of our neighbors. As Pope Francis emphasizes in his World Day of the Poor message, “The poor are persons; they have faces, stories, hearts, and souls.”

While the situation can be discouraging, leading us to wonder what, if anything, we can do to help, as the Parable of the Five Talents from Matthew’s Gospel (Mt 25:14-30) tells us, much can be accomplished if we strive to use the gifts that God has given to us. We can lend our voices to advocate for the poor. We can pray for them. We can give generously to the collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, which supports programs, both nationally and here in Maine, that seek to lift people out of poverty. We can embrace social justice & peace initiatives in our parishes and churches. We can volunteer at a soup kitchen, food bank, or community meal. And we can remind ourselves and teach our children that every person is a son or daughter of God, whether they live in a mansion, a modest apartment, or a tent by the roadside.

On this World Day of the Poor, may we not “turn our face from anyone who is poor” but remember that it is often the poor who help us to encounter Christ in our world today.

How you can help

Pope Francis Messages