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Mercy and almsgiving

Catechesis by Pope Francis in the Jubilee of Mercy
Jubilee Audience, Saturday 9 April 2016, St Peter's Square - in Arabic, Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,
The Gospel passage we have heard allows us to discover an essential aspect of mercy: almsgiving. It might seem simple to give alms, but we must be careful not to empty this gesture of its importance. Indeed, the term “alms”, derives from the Greek and actually means “mercy”. Therefore, almsgiving must carry with it all the richness of mercy. And as mercy has a thousand paths, a thousand ways, thus almsgiving is expressed in many ways, in order to alleviate the hardship of those who are in need.

The duty to give alms is as ancient as the Bible. Sacrifice and almsgiving were two duties that a devout person had to comply with. There are two important passages in the Old Testament where God demands special attention for the poor, who at times are destitute, strangers, orphans and widows. In the Bible this continuous refrain — the needy, the widow, the stranger, the sojourner, the orphan — is recurrent. Because God wants his people to watch over these brothers and sisters of ours; moreover, I would say that they are at the very centre of the message: to praise God through sacrifice and to praise God through almsgiving.

Along with the obligation to remember them, a precious direction is also given: “you shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him” (Dt 15:10). This means, first of all, that charity requires an attitude of inner joy. Offering mercy cannot be a burden or an annoyance from which to free ourselves in haste. How many people justify their not giving alms by saying: “What kind of person is this? If I give him something perhaps he will go buy wine to get drunk”. If he gets drunk, it is because he sees no alternatives! And you, what do you do in secret, that no one sees? Yet you judge that poor man who asks you for a coin for a glass of wine? I like to recall the episode of the elderly Tobit who, after receiving a large sum of money, called his son and instructed him, saying: “Give alms... to all who live uprightly [...]. Do not turn your face away from any poor man, and the face of God will not be turned away from you” (Tob 4:7-8). These are very wise words that help us understand the value of almsgiving.

Jesus, as we heard, gave us an irreplaceable lesson in this regard. In the first place, he asks us not to give alms in order to be praised and admired by people for our generosity: do so in such a way that your right hand does not know what your left hand is doing (cf. Mt 6:3). It is not appearances that count, but the capacity to stop in order to look in the face of that person asking for help. We can each ask ourselves: “Am I able to stop and look in the face, in the eye of that person who is asking me? Am I able?”. Thus, we must not identify almsgiving with the simple coin offered in haste, without looking at the person and without stopping to talk so as to understand what he or she truly needs. At the same time, we must distinguish between the poor and the various forms of begging that do not render a good service to the truly poor. Thus, almsgiving is a gesture of love that is directed at those we meet: it is a gesture of sincere attention to those who approach us and ask for our help, done in secret where God alone sees and understands the value of the act performed.

Giving alms must be for us too something that is a sacrifice. I remember a mother: she had three children, six, five and three years old, more or less. She always taught her children that one should give alms to the people who ask for it. They were at lunch: each one was eating a Milanese cutlet, as we say in my land, “breaded”. There was a knock at the door. The oldest went to open the door and returned: “Mamma, there’s a poor person asking for something to eat”. — “What should we do?”, the mother asked. “Let’s give him something”, they all said, “let’s give something to him!”. — “Okay: take half of your cutlet, you the other half, you the other half, and we’ll make two sandwiches” — “Ah, no, mamma, no!” — “No? You give him some of yours, give something that costs you”. This is involving yourself with the poor person. I deprive myself of something of my own in order to give it to you. I say to parents: raise your children to give alms in this way, to be generous with what they have.

Thus, let us make the words of the Apostle Paul our own: “In all things I have shown you that by so toiling one must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, who said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35; cf. 2 Cor 9:7). Thank you!"


"Je salue cordialement les pèlerins de langue française. En cette Année jubilaire, demandons la grâce de porter un regard d’amour plus attentif aux personnes que nous aidons, de nous arrêter davantage auprès d’elles ; et découvrons ainsi qu’il y a plus de joie à donner qu’à recevoir. Que Dieu vous bénisse !

I greet the English-speaking visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly the pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Dublin. In the joy of the Risen Lord, I invoke upon you and your families the loving mercy of God our Father. May the Lord bless you all!

Herzlich grüße ich die Pilger deutscher und flämischer Sprache. Seien wir großzügig im Geben von Almosen und denken wir dabei immer an das Wort Jesu „Geben ist seliger als nehmen“ (Apg 20,35). Der Herr segne euch und eure Familien.

Saludo cordialmente a los peregrinos de lengua española, en particular a los venidos de España y Latinoamérica. Los invito practicar la limosna como signo de misericordia y a no olvidar de mirar a los ojos de quien les pide ayuda; así, Dios no les ocultará su rostro. Muchas gracias.

Com grande afeto, saúdo os peregrinos de língua portuguesa, em particular os grupos de Pontal e do Colégio São Bento do Rio de Janeiro, com votos de que possais vós todos dar-vos sempre conta do dom maravilhoso que é pertencer à Igreja. Vele sobre o vosso caminho a Virgem Maria e vos ajude a ser sinal de confiança e instrumento de caridade no meio dos vossos irmãos. Sobre vós e vossas famílias desça a Bênção de Deus.

أُرحّبُ بالحجّاجِ الناطقينَ باللغةِ العربيَّة، وخاصةً بالقادمينَ منالشرق الأوسط. أيها الإخوةُ والأخواتُ الأعزاء، يجب ألا نخاف من الرحمة، فإنَّها محبَّة تلاقينا وتجتذبنا كي تسمح لنا بالتعرُّف على وجه الله في وجوه الأخوة. لنسمح لهذه المحبَّة أن تقودنا بوداعة فنصبح رحماء كالآب. ليُبارككُم الرب!

Witam pielgrzymów polskich. Pozdrawiam także waszych rodaków w Polsce i za granicą. Przechodząc przez Święte Drzwi Bazylik Papieskich w Rzymie i Drzwi Miłosierdzia otwarte w waszych diecezjach, wypraszajcie łaskę jubileuszowego odpustu dla siebie samych, waszych bliskich i zmarłych. Mogą go uzyskać także ci, którzy pełnią uczynki miłosierdzia, chorzy, starsi niewychodzący z domu, więźniowie. Korzystajmy z daru Bożego miłosierdzia! Niech będzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus.

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Cari pellegrini di lingua italiana: benvenuti!
Sono lieto di accogliere i fedeli di alcune Diocesi italiane accompagnate dai rispettivi Pastori: Genova, Torino, Amalfi-Cava de’ Tirreni, Matera-Irsina, Brescia e Nocera Inferiore-Sarno. Saluto i pellegrinaggi dell’Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore; della Caritas di Casale Monferrato e della Federazione Italiana dei Settimanali Cattolici, che ricorda il 50° anniversario di fondazione. Saluto le Figlie del Santissimo Redentore e della Beata Vergine Addolorata, che festeggiano duecento anni di apostolato; e i fedeli di Ancona, Mede Lomellina e Andria. Vi esorto a ravvivare la fede con il passaggio attraverso la Porta Santa, per essere testimoni dell’amore del Signore Risorto con concrete opere di misericordia.

Un saluto rivolgo ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli. Questo Anno Santo sia vissuto con particolare intensità. Cari giovani, specialmente voi ragazzi della Professione di fede della Diocesi di Tivoli, siate sempre fedeli al vostro Battesimo con la coerente testimonianza di vita; cari ammalati, in particolare gli associati all’Unitalsi della Lombardia e della Campania, la luce della Pasqua vi illumini e vi conforti nella vostra sofferenza; e voi, cari sposi novelli, attingete al mistero pasquale il coraggio per essere protagonisti nella Chiesa e nella società, contribuendo alla costruzione della civiltà dell’amore."