Pope Francis: Meeting Christ in the poor renews our missionary vigor

Pope Francis speaks from the Apostolic Palace during his general audience livestream April 14, 2021. / Vatican Media/CNA

Rome, Italy, Apr 15, 2021 / 15:18 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis said Thursday that the poverty and exclusion from the job market caused by the coronavirus pandemic has made the work of Catholic groups that assist poor communities even more urgent.

“Going out to meet the wounded and risen Christ in the poorest communities allows us to regain our missionary vigor, because that is how the Church was born, on the periphery of the Cross,” Pope Francis said in a video message released on April 15.

“If the Church ignores the poor it ceases to be the Church of Jesus and revives old temptations to become an intellectual or moral elite, a new form of Pelagianism, or like the life of the Essenes.”

The pope sent the video message to the participants in the international conference, “A Politics Rooted in the People,” organized by the London-based Centre for Theology and Community.

The event is part of the celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the anti-poverty program of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

In his message, Pope Francis recognized the work of the U.S. bishops’ anti-poverty initiative in “helping the poorest communities in the United States to live more with dignity, promoting their participation in the decisions that affect them.”

“When the people are discarded, they are deprived not only of material well-being but also of the dignity of acting, of being the protagonist of their history, of their destiny, of expressing themselves with their values ​​and culture, of their creativity, of their fertility,” the pope said.

“For this reason, it is impossible for the Church to separate the promotion of social justice from the recognition of the values ​​and culture of the people, including the spiritual values ​​that are the source of their sense of dignity.”

The pope said that politics is regenerated when the importance of spirituality in people’s lives is recognized. 

“One way to ignore the poor is to despise their culture, their spiritual values, their religious values, either by discarding them or exploiting them for the purpose of power,” he said. “Contempt for popular culture is the beginning of the abuse of power.”

The pope also greeted the other conference partners, which include the Caritas Social Action Network, Boston College Law School, the Centre for Catholic Social Thought and Practice, the Loyola University’s Institute of Pastoral Studies, the Katholische Hochschule für Sozialwesen in Berlin, and the Anglo-Irish province of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

“The poverty and exclusion from the job market that resulted from this pandemic which we are experiencing have made your work and testimony much more urgent and necessary,” Pope Francis said.

“Many of you gathered here have been working for years doing this in the peripheries, and accompanying popular movements. Sometimes it can be uncomfortable. Some accuse you of being too political, others of wanting to impose religion. But you perceive that respecting the people is respecting their institutions, including religious ones; and that the role of these institutions is not to impose anything, but to walk with the people, reminding them of the face of God that always comes before us,” he said.

House Republicans seek to defund UN agency over abortion concerns

Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 14, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

House Republicans on Tuesday introduced a bill to defund the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), alleging its complicity in forced abortions and sterilizations in China.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) introduced the “No Taxpayer Funding for the United Nations Population Fund Act” on Tuesday to permanently strip the UNFPA of federal funding. The UNFPA partners with China, and Roy alleged that the organization is complicit in China’s population control program where women have reportedly endured forced abortions and sterilizations. 

More than three dozen members are co-sponsoring Roy’s legislation. 

The Trump administration stopped funding the UNFPA in 2017, citing the fund’s partnership with the Chinese government where “family planning policies still involve the use of coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization practices.”

Last week, President Biden included funding for the UNFPA in his discretionary budget request for the 2022 fiscal year, “including for the repayment of arrears, where applicable.” In January, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the agency would work to make $32.5 million available for the fund in 2021.

Roy on Wednesday said that federal funds should not be subsidizing abortion, directly or indirectly.

“American tax dollars should never directly or indirectly support taking of innocent human life through abortion or the dehumanizing act of involuntary sterilization, and they certainly shouldn’t be used to support the oppressive, America-hating Chinese Communist Party in any way whatsoever,” Roy said. 

“Former President Trump was right to stop funding the UN Population Fund due to their open partnership with the oppressive Chinese regime and their support for China’s atrocious human rights violations. This legislation will continue that policy,” he added.

The UN Population Fund describes itself as the “sexual and reproductive health agency” of the United Nations. 

“Our mission is to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled,” the UNFPA website states.

When the Trump administration defunded the UNFPA, it redirected the funding to the US Agency for International Development for family planning programs in line with the Mexico City Policy. That policy required U.S. family planning and global health assistance to not fund groups promoting or performing abortions. 

Biden revoked the pro-life Mexico City Policy as one of his first acts in office. Previous Democratic presidents have repealed the policy at the outset of their presidencies. 

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and many other pro-life organizations support Roy’s bill. 

“The current Administration plans to restart funding UNFPA despite the organization’s consistent support for China’s brutal child policy and the lack of evidence that UNFPA has changed course,” said Thomas McClusky, president of March for Life Action. 

“The United States should support human rights, not fund international groups complicit in their violation.”

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