Papal preacher says indifference is biggest sin against the poor

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The biggest sin committed against the poor and the hungry is indifference, the preacher of the papal household told Pope Benedict XVI and top Vatican officials.

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, leading the traditional Friday Lenten reflection at the Vatican March 23, said Christians are called to help remedy the injustice of poverty, not turn away hoping others will resolve the problem.

“The parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus is being repeated today among us on a global scale,” he said, with wealthy nations representing the rich man living in splendor and the developing world representing Lazarus who longed to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table.

Just as the rich man’s gate kept Lazarus at bay, “We tend to put double-paned windows up between us and the poor” that shield against and muffle the severity of the poor’s plight, Father Cantalamessa said.

“We see the poor on the move, writhing, screaming on the other side of our television screens, in the newspaper … but their cries reach us as from afar. They don’t reach the heart,” he said.

But, he said, “the biggest sin against the poor and hungry perhaps is indifference, to pretend not to see … to ignore the immense multitude of people starving, begging, homeless, without health care and above all without hope for a better future.”

The “scandalous abyss” between the haves and the have-nots is “the most pressing and colossal task” that humankind has yet to remedy, the Capuchin priest said.

The Gospels encourage people to react to other people’s suffering with love, compassion and mercy, not indifference, he said. Also, the Gospels do not urge the poor to seek justice on their own, he added.

“Seeking, at all costs, to find examples or explicit calls in the Gospels to the poor and hungry to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps is fruitless and anachronistic,” he said, emphasizing that Jesus himself confronted “the ire and sarcasm of the rich” and did not leave that task to the victims of the Pharisees’ greed.

The preacher told the pope and Vatican officials that wealthier Christians must remember and concretely help their more unfortunate sisters and brothers.

“Among the millions of Christians who will go to Mass next Sunday there are some — and we are some of them — who have every gift of God at their disposal when they go back home and others who have nothing to feed their own children,” he said.

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