Detainees in overcrowded prisons are in danger – Pope

Vatican Media

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Detainees in overcrowded prisons and the poor were the focus of Pope Francis’s homily during Monday’s Mass in the Casa Santa Marta. He also reminded all Christians that we will be judged for our attitude toward the poor.

Pope Francis highlighted the plight of detainees in overcrowded prisons in several countries. He asked his listeners to pray for these detained as during a pandemic overcrowded places can risk becoming a grave.

 ‘Where there is overcrowding, there is the danger in this pandemic that it winds up being a grave tragedy. Let us pray for those responsible, and for those who need to make decisions in this area, that they might find a correct and creative way to resolve the problem.”

He concluded his homily with a strong warning about our attitude toward the poor:

“If I ignore the poor today, leaving them aside and acting as if they didn’t exist, the Lord will ignore me on the Day of Judgment. When Jesus says, ‘You always have the poor with you,’ He is saying, ‘I will always be with you in the poor. I will be present there.’ And this is not acting like a communist. This is at the centre of the Gospel: we will be judged on this.”

“Making money from the poor”

Pope Francis based his homily on the Gospel reading of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet with costly perfumed oil and explained Jesus’ rebuke to Judas and others in the words:  “You always have the poor with you.”

He compared the position taken by Judas who used to administer the common purse of the apostles with the current world situation.

“This story of the unfaithful administrator is always current: they are always around, even at a high level. We think of some charitable or humanitarian organizations that have many, many employees, with a structure full of people and only about 40% of donations make it to the poor because 60% goes to pay many salaries. This is a way of taking money from the poor.”

“We don’t see the poor”

Pope Francis harped on one of the themes that he repeatedly refers to in interviews, homilies and addresses delivered by him: ‘we don’t see the poor.”

“The great majority of the poor are those whom we do not see: the hidden poor. And we don’t see them because we enter into this culture of indifference which denies their existence. So we say, ‘No, there aren’t that many. You don’t see many.’ And we minimize the reality of the poor. But there are so very many.”

New poor: victims of economic systems

During the homily the Pope recounted a personal experience from his years as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires in Argentina.

“Once, someone told me about an abandoned factory in which around 15 families had lived for the previous few months. I went there. There were families with children, and each had claimed a part of the factory to live in. Looking closer, I saw that every family had good furniture, indicative of the middle class, with a television set. But they wound up there because they couldn’t pay their rent. These are the new poor who are forced to leave their homes because they can’t afford them. This is the injustice of the economic or financial system that has left them like that.”

The Pope reminded all that Christ would judge us on how we treated the poor, the vulnerable and the needy.