On Saturday, Pope Francis received in audience the participants in the Meeting organized by the Food Bank Foundation. Here is a translation of the Pope’s address to those present at the audience.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
I am happy to meet with you, all of you, associations and individuals that collaborate in this significant “network of charity” called the Food Bank Foundation. I also greet those who are following this meeting from Saint Peter’s Square. For 25 years you have been committed, as volunteers, on the front of poverty. In particular, your preoccupation is that of opposing the waste of food, to recover it and distribute it to families in difficulty and to indigent persons. I thank you for what you do and I encourage you to continue on this path.
Hunger today is a matter of truly “scandalous” dimensions, which threatens the life and dignity of many persons – men, women, children and elderly. Every day we must address this injustice, I go further, with this sin, in a world rich in food resources, thanks also to the enormous technological progresses, too many are those that do not have the necessary to survive; and this not only in poor countries, but increasingly in rich and developed societies. The situation is aggravated by the increase in migratory flows, which bring to Europe thousands of refugees, fleeing from their countries and in need of everything. Jesus’ words resound in face of such an immeasurable problem: “I was hungry and you gave me to eat” (Matthew 25:35)). In the Gospel we see that, when the Lord realizes that the crowds that have come to listen to him are hungry, he does not ignore the problem, nor does he give a good discourse on the fight against poverty, but he carries out a gesture that leaves everyone astonished: he takes the few [loaves] that the disciples have brought with them, blesses them and multiplies the loaves and fishes, so much so that at the end “they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over” (Matthew 14:20-21).
We cannot work a miracle as Jesus did; however, we can do something in face of the emergency of hunger, something humble, but which has the force of a miracle. First of all, we can educate ourselves to humanity, to recognize the humanity present in every person, in need of everything. Perhaps Danilo Fossati was thinking of this, entrepreneur of the food sector and founder of the Food Bank, when he confided to Don Giussani his uneasiness in face of the destruction of products that were still edible, on seeing how many in Italy suffered hunger. Don Giussani was struck and said: “Seldom have I come across a powerful [person] that would choose to give without asking anything in return and I have never known one that gave without wanting to appear … The Bank was his work – never publicly, always on tiptoes, he followed it from its birth.”
Your initiative, which is celebrating 25 years, has its root in the hearts of these two men, who did not remain indifferent to the cry of the poor. And they understood that something had to change in people’s mentality, that the walls of individualism and of egoism had to be brought down. Continue this work with confidence, activating the culture of encounter and sharing. Your contribution might certainly seem to be a drop in the sea of need, but in reality it is precious! Together with you, others want to work, and this enlarges the river that nourishes the hope of millions of people.
It is Jesus himself who invites us to make room in our heart for the urgency “to give the hungry to eat,” and the Church has made it one of the works of corporal mercy. To share what we have with those who do not have the means to satisfy such a primary need, educates us to that charity that is an overflowing gift of passion for the life of the poor that the Lord makes us meet.
In sharing the necessity of daily bread, you meet every day hundreds of people. Do not forget that they are persons, not numbers, each one with his burden of pain that at times seems impossible to carry. By having this always present, you will be able to look at them in the face, to look at them in their eyes, to shake their hand, to see in them the flesh of Christ and to help them also to win back their dignity and to stand up again. I encourage you to be brothers and friends of the poor, and to make them feel that they are important in God’s eyes. May the difficulties that you surely meet not discourage you; rather, may they induce you to always support one another more, competing in active charity.
May Our Lady, Mother of Charity, protect you. I accompany you with my blessing. And I ask you, please, to pray for me. Thank you!
Let us, all together, pray to Our Lady. And I suggest something to you: in praying to Our Lady and in receiving the blessing, think of a person, of two or three that we know, who are hungry and are in need of daily bread. Let us not think of ourselves, and pray to Our Lady for them. May the Lord bless them.
Ave Maria …
[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]