“One Can Look at a Homeless Individual as a Person or as a Dog,” Says Francis

The Holy Father Speaks of the Relation with the Homeless in an Interview with the “Scarp de’Tenis” Periodical

Jubilee of the Homeless, November 11 2016 / © PHOTO.VA- OSSERVATORE ROMANO

“It is good to give alms, even if the person to whom we give the money then spends it on buying himself a glass of wine,” said Pope Francis in a wide-ranging interview with the Italian magazine “Scarp de’ Tenis”  (‘Sneakers’), which is run by homeless people. The interview was published today, Feb. 28, 2017,  in a Holy See Bulletin.

According to Vatican Radio, the publication also functions as a social project, as most of the staff is homeless, suffers difficult personal situations or forms of social exclusion. For most contributors, the magazine is an important source of income. In 2008, “Scarp de’ tenis” entered into partnership with the Italian arm of the Vatican’s charity organization, Caritas.

In the interview, the Holy Father spoke about his relation with the homeless, saying that when he meets them, the first thing he says to them is “Good morning,” “How are you?” And he added: “Sometimes, a few words are exchanged; at other times, instead, one enters into relation and interesting stories are heard.”

Francis stressed that the homeless understand “when there is real interest on the part of the other person or when there isn’t, I don’t want to say that sentiment of compassion, but certainly of pity.” According to the Pontiff, “one can see a homeless person and look at him as a person or as if he were a dog.”

In this context, the Pope recalled that at the time of John Paul II’s pontificate, it was discovered that at Piazza Risorgimento, close to the Vatican, there was a Polish homeless man who was a priest and had studied in the Seminary with Karol Wojtyla.

The news was given to John Paul II who, hearing the name, confirmed that he was a companion of the seminary and decided to meet with him. “They embraced after 40 years, and at the end of an audience the Pope requested that his confession be heard by the priest who had been his companion,” told Francis.

The Argentine Pope also addressed the subject of alms, saying that there are so many arguments to justify oneself when one doesn’t give alms.” Such as: “But why, I give him money and he spends it to drink a glass of wine?” The Pontiff affirmed that “a glass of wine is the only happiness he has in life, it’s OK. Ask yourself, rather, what do you do in a hidden way? What ‘happiness’ do you seek in a hidden way? Or, as opposed to him, are you more fortunate, with a house, a wife and children.”

Therefore, according to the Pope, “helping is always right” even if “it’s not a good thing to throw some small change to a poor person.” “The gesture is important, to help one who asks, looking at him in the eyes and touching his hands.”

“To throw money and not look at him in the eyes isn’t a Christian gesture,” he said.

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