Today, September 5, the world celebrates the International Day of Charity. According to the United Nations (UN), the celebration was “established with the objective of sensitizing and mobilizing people, NGOs, and stakeholders all around the world to to help others through volunteer and philanthropic activities.”
The date is also significant to Catholics around the globe as the date was chosen to commemorate Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s death anniversary. And someone who is like Mother Teresa, and all other charitable figures past and present, is Pope Francis himself. In fact, he even chose the name Francis in honor of the saint who served the poor. (Read: 10 Things Pope Francis and Saint Francis Share in Common)
“For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation; these days we do not have a very good relationship with creation, do we? He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man … How I would like a Church which is poor and for the poor,” the Holy Father said in a statement a few days after his election.
So how does the pope show his charitable side and his closeness with the poor and in need? Here are some instances.
Pope Francis’ Charitable Acts: Hosted meals with the poor
In 2013, just a few months after he was elected to the position, Pope Francis hosted a lunch for the poor in the town of Assisi, St. Francis’ birthplace. During the meal, he addressed those with him, and even listened to some of the stories of those present. “Many of you have been stripped by this savage world,” he said. “[It] does not give employment [and it] does not care if there are children dying of hunger.” Which is why the pope said he wanted reform in the Vatican for the Church to become a “Church for the poor.” (Read: Pope Urges Leaders to Involve the Poor in Post-Pandemic Planning)
And in 2018 and 2019, he once again held lunches with the poor. 1,500 poor and in need were invited to share a meal with the Holy Father during each year. He blessed them and allowed them to share their personal experiences. Another 1,500 individuals were also provided a meal simultaneously in different parts of Rome.
Pope Francis’ Charitable Acts: COVID-19 Response
Healthcare systems around the globe were overwhelmed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Supplies easily ran out, most hospitals were at full capacity, and people were scrambling to find hospital beds, medical supplies, and medicine for their loved ones inflicted with the novel coronavirus. And it’s an even worse situation for countries that are poverty-stricken.
Which is why the Holy Father donated medical supplies to help fight the pandemic in Eswatini in August this year. His team provided two portable ventilators with stands, ten boxes of surgical masks, 10 boxes of N95 masks and pulse monitors to Good Shepherd Catholic Hospital to help the healthcare workers’ fight against the virus. (Read: PH Bishops Decline VIP Vaccination: ‘The Poor Are Priority’)
This is on top of the $1 million dollars worth of COVID-19 vaccines that the Vatican will be purchasing for poor countries, thanks to a generous donation from the South Korea Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
Pope Francis’ Charitable Acts: Donation to the World Food Programme
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are experiencing hunger around the world. With this, the World Food Programme (WFP) has been working double time to feed over 270 million individuals who are hungry. The organization has also issued a call for $4.9 billion funding for them to continue their efforts to feed the hungry. (Read: World Food Programme Gets Nobel Prize, Champions Zero Hunger)
And Pope Francis has responded to their call. In July 2020, the Vatican announced that the Holy Father will be donating 25,000 euros or $28,000 to the WFP. According to them, this is the pope’s “expression of his closeness to those affected by the pandemic and to those who are engaged in essential services for the poor and weakest and most vulnerable people in our society.”