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Pope Francis has urged Catholics to offer charity this Lent to the materially, morally and spiritually destitute, but warns that they must give until hurts if they truly wish to be Christ-like.
“I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt,” the Pope says in a three-page message for Lent, which was issued today, a month before Ash Wednesday, which falls on 5 March.
Based on the theme, “He became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9), the Pope’s message calls on Catholics to imitate Christ by involving themselves in the lives of the poor.
“In imitation of our Master, we Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it,” Francis writes in the letter.
“God did not let our salvation drop down from heaven, like someone who gives alms from their abundance out of a sense of altruism and piety,” the Pope says. “Christ’s poverty which enriches us is his taking flesh and bearing our weaknesses and sins as an expression of God’s infinite mercy to us,” he adds.
“When power, luxury and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distribution of wealth. Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing,” he adds.
Francis cited three types of poverty: “material, moral and spiritual” destitution – the first a lack of the basics such as food and work, the second a “slavery to vice and sin” such as drugs, gambling or pornography, and the third, a turning away from God.