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Pope Francis joined about 1,300 guests for lunch in the Vatican audience hall on the World Day of the Poor Nov. 13. Loved by God, “let us love His most discarded children. The Lord is there,” the pope said at Mass that day.
Pope Francis joined about 1,300 guests for lunch in the Vatican audience hall on the World Day of the Poor Nov. 13. Loved by God, “let us love His most discarded children. The Lord is there,” the pope said at Mass that day.
Photo Credit: Remo Casilli | Reuters

Fordham report finds poverty growing globally, reversing recent gains

Overall, 26.2% of the world’s population lives in poverty, according to the Fordham Francis Global Poverty Score

Declining access to food, greater discrimination against women and widening restrictions on religious freedom have contributed to a higher rate of poverty worldwide, said a new report issued by a Fordham University program.

Overall, 26.2% of the world’s population lives in poverty, according to the Fordham Francis Global Poverty Score.

The score is based on seven measures for human well-being — four governing material needs and three related to spiritual needs — identified by Pope Francis during a 2015 address to the United Nations.

The pope described material needs — water, food, housing and employment — and spiritual needs — education, religious freedom and civil rights — at the time.

Henry Schwalbenberg, director of the university’s graduate program in International Political Economy and Development, said the findings show that extreme poverty as measured under the seven criteria is the highest since the score was developed in 2015.

The program released the report Nov. 11 during a United Nations side event at the school marking the World Day of the Poor, which Pope Francis designated for the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time. This year the day fell on Nov. 13.

The report said the score is an average of data collected from more than 80 countries, none from the developed world. It uses the most recent available data — some dating from 2019 — from various U.N. agencies and nongovernmental organizations to make its assessment.

While the report shows that access to clean water improved in 2020, the number of people who are undernourished grew in 2019. Similarly, the number of people without adequate housing rose in 2020.

The report also showed:

• 10.1% of people, about 787 million, could not access clean water in 2020.

• 9.2% of people, about 710 million, were malnourished in 2019.

• 17.2% of people, about 1.3 billion, lived in substandard housing in 2020.

• 13.3% of the adult population, about 776 million, were illiterate in 2020.

• 23.2% of the world’s labor force, about 804 million, were without work or were employed at a wage lower than $3.20 per day in 2021.

Opening the program, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the Vatican’s permanent observer to the U.N., said Pope Francis originated World Day of the Poor to encourage people to go to the margins of society.

The archbishop said the pope is calling people to reject “laxity” in responding to the needs of people struggling to have their basic needs met.

“In this world of globalization, what is globalized, unfortunately, is indifference,” he said.

Secondly, the pope is calling for people to be in solidarity — that is sharing — with others, Archbishop Caccia explained. Sharing can take many forms, he said, but to do so requires going out to the margins of society.

And a third step, which the archbishop described as the most demanding, is “to always look at the one who didn’t stop doing this, Jesus.”

“Jesus is the model. He was like God. He decided to become man, to be hungry, thirsty, unjustly accused, persecuted and killed. If we don’t enter into this kind of mentality, if we don’t keep our eyes fixed on him, we can be easily discouraged and we give up after a while,” he said.

Amplifying the report’s findings of worsening poverty, Bill O’Keefe, executive vice president for mission, mobilization and advocacy for Catholic Relief Services, told participants that climate change is driving a new round of growing poverty.

“We can’t just talk about the environment and we can’t just talk about poverty. We have to talk about them all together,” he said.


Love the Lord by loving the poor, pope says at Mass

By Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Wars, famine and calamities of every kind can tempt Christians to a paralyzing fear that the world is about to end; what they must do instead is act, even in a small way, to make the world a better place, Pope Francis said.

Loved by God, “let us love His most discarded children. The Lord is there,” the pope said Nov. 13, celebrating Mass for the World Day of the Poor.

In Italian villages and other places, too, there is a tradition at Christmas to set an extra place at the table “for the Lord who will surely knock on the door in the person of someone who is poor and in need,” the pope said.

“And your heart, does it always have a free place for those people?” he asked those at Mass. “My heart, does it have a vacancy for those people? Or are we so busy with friends, social events and obligations that we never have room for them?”

After Mass and the recitation of the Angelus prayer, the Vatican set a place for 1,300 people to share a festive meal in the Vatican audience hall. Pope Francis joined them for lunch.

And, thanks to a donation from a supermarket chain, the Vatican sent 5,000 boxes of pasta, rice, flour, sugar, salt, coffee, milk and oil to Rome parishes for distribution.

In addition, with the help of volunteer doctors, nurses and technicians, the Vatican set up a free medical clinic in St. Peter’s Square for the week, offering physical exams and blood tests to anyone in need. And, with the price of electricity more than doubling in Italy over the past year, the Vatican also was helping families with utility bills, said Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the Vatican organizer of the world day.

While the primary goal is to help the poor, especially those living on the streets around the Vatican, the presence in the square of three campers modified as clinics also is “a provocation,” said Archbishop Fisichella. “The poor exist and there are more of them than most people think. This is a reminder.”

“The poor evangelize us,” Archbishop Fisichella said. “The poor allow us all — believers and nonbelievers — to understand an essential of the Gospel, which is to serve others,” especially the most vulnerable.

The “field hospital” in the square opened Nov. 7 and was to offer free medical services to anyone who asked from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day through Nov. 13, the day the Church marks the World Day of the Poor.


Vatican opens clinic in St. Peter’s Square for World Day of the Poor

By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — As part of the Vatican celebration of World Day of the Poor, a dozen doctors and nurses and 90 medical students set up shop in St. Peter’s Square.

“We know there are people who need medical care and are not getting it, so our aim is to offer exams and blood tests and make referrals to specialists,” said Dr. Giuseppe Marinaro, an emergency room physician from Padua, who was on duty in the square Nov. 10.

While the primary goal is to help the poor, especially those living on the streets around the Vatican, the presence in the square of three campers modified as clinics also is “a provocation,” said Archbishop Rino Fisichella of the Dicastery for Evangelization, which coordinates the World Day of the Poor events. “The poor exist and there are more of them than most people think. This is a reminder.”

“The poor evangelize us,” Archbishop Fisichella said. “The poor allow us all — believers and nonbelievers — to understand an essential of the Gospel, which is to serve others,” especially the most vulnerable.

The “field hospital” in the square opened Nov. 7 and was to offer free medical services to anyone who asked from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day through Nov. 13, the day the church marks the World Day of the Poor.

The all-volunteer staff — which included members of the Italian Red Cross, medical charities and Italian medical associations — were offering patients normal physical exams, electrocardiograms, ultrasounds, blood tests, flu vaccines and COVID-19 tests.

“Up to now, we have not had any emergency situations,” said Nicole Laforgia, project manager for Doctors for Africa, one of the groups on duty Nov. 10.

The exams revealed plenty of cases of diabetes and high blood pressure, but the patients already knew their diagnosis and were receiving care, she said. The Vatican clinic included a pharmacy to help those needing more medication.

All of the volunteer physicians and nurses have full-time jobs as well, Dr. Marinaro said. But “if someone wants to help, they’ll find the time.”

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