The Poor Are Christians' Teachers, Says John Paul II

In Message for Sant’Egidio Community’s 36th Anniversary

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 9, 2004 ( John Paul II says the poor are not only Christians’ «brothers» but also their «teachers.»

The Pope explained this in his message for the sixth international meeting of bishop- and priest-friends of the Community of Sant’Egidio, to celebrate the group’s 36th anniversary.

The poor «are our teachers; they make us understand what we all are before God: beggars of love and salvation,» the Holy Father said.

«For Christ’s disciple, the poor man is a brother who must be welcomed and loved, and not a stranger to whom one must dedicate, when he needs it, a moment of attention,» the papal message added.

After recalling Pope John XXIII’s words that «the Church belongs to all, but especially to the poor,» John Paul II explained: «The Kingdom of God belongs to the poor who, according to some Fathers of the Church, can be our advocates before God.»

He quoted St. Gregory the Great: «The poor, who come to us sometimes in an inopportune way and made requests of us, will be able to intercede for us on the last day.»

John Paul II ended with an exhortation to the members of the Sant’Egidio Community: «May all be able to assist those going through difficulties, in order to experience the truth of the words of the Bible: ‘There is more joy in giving than in receiving.'»

The Sant’Egidio Community, an ecclesial movement founded in Rome by historian Andrea Riccardi, has 50,000 members worldwide.

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