John Paul II Calls for an Authentic "Church of the Poor"

When Addressing a Group of Philippine Bishops

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 25, 2003 ( John Paul II says the Catholic Church should be a «Church of the poor» that practices a preferential but not exclusive option for the neediest.

The Pope expressed this conviction when he met today with a group of bishops from the Philippine provinces of Cagayan de Oro, Cotabato, Davao, Lipa, Ozamis and Zamboanga.

The Holy Father applauded the «Vision-Mission Statement for the Church in the Philippines,» which reads: «Following the way of our Lord, we opt to be a Church of the poor.»

According to the Pope, such a Church is «a community of faith that embraces and practices the evangelical spirit of poverty, which combines detachment from possessions with a profound trust in the Lord as the sole source of salvation.»

«We do well to note that this preference for the poor is in no way exclusive but embraces all people regardless of economic class or social standing,» he stressed.

«It is a Church, however, that gives preferential attention to the poor, seeking to share time and resources in order to alleviate suffering,» he said. «It is a Church that works with all sectors of society, including the poor themselves, in search of solutions to the problems of poverty, in order to free people from lives of misery and want.»

«It is a Church moreover that makes use of the talents and gifts of the poor, relying on them in the mission of evangelization,» the Pope added. «The Church of the poor is a Church in which the poor are welcomed, listened to and actively involved.»

In this connection, «a true Church of the poor contributes much to the needed transformation of society, to social renewal based on the vision and values of the Gospel,» he said.

«This renewal is an undertaking that has the lay faithful as its principal and essential agents: Therefore, the laity must be given the necessary tools to carry out this role successfully,» the Holy Father added.

«This entails a thorough formation in the Church’s social doctrine, and constant dialogue with clergy and religious concerning social and cultural issues,» he said.

In particular, this option implies «witness to Christian faith is marriage and the family.»

«When family life is healthy and flourishing, there is likewise a strong sense of community and solidarity — two essential elements for the Church of the poor,» he concluded.

The group of bishops at the audience were the first of three from the Philippines who are making their five-yearly visit to Rome over the next two months.

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