Pope Francis’s latest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, has been welcomed by leading Catholic charity the St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP), which describes the document as “a powerful and passionate declaration to all Christians that they should work in solidarity for the benefit of those in need”.
The encyclical, which provides the latest contribution in the long history of Catholic Social Teaching, was published on 4th October and calls on the world to ‘contribute to the rebirth of a universal aspiration to fraternity. Fraternity between all men and women… brothers and sisters all’.
SVP National President, Helen O’Shea, sees the pope’s call as an implicit endorsement of the SVP’s particular perspective on Christianity.
“Since our founding in 1833, we have striven to prove our love of God by working together to help our brothers and sisters who are suffering,” she said. “And it seems to me that that’s exactly what the pope is calling for in Fratelli Tutti.”
The Holy Father tells us: ‘Belief in God and the worship of God are not enough to ensure that we are actually living in a way pleasing to God.
‘Under the guise of being politically correct or ideologically fashionable, we look at those who suffer without touching them.
‘Let us care for the needs of every man and woman, young and old, with the same fraternal spirit of care and closeness that marked the Good Samaritan.’
According to Ms O’Shea, this quotation from Fratelli Tutti could almost be a blueprint for the SVP. “We believe in giving practical assistance to anyone who needs it – the lonely, the hungry, the homeless, the sick, anyone, without judging them. All of us work together to achieve this as effectively as possible – around 10,000 of us in England and Wales, 800,000 of us worldwide. And we believe we have to do this as part of our faith.”
She added: “As the pope urged us to do, we recognise Christ himself in each of our suffering brothers and sisters.”
Ms O’Shea concedes that most people feel sympathy towards those in need but, in the modern world, lack the time to make a real commitment to helping them, but Pope Francis admonishes us for such an attitude.
“Caught up as we are with our own needs, the sight of a person who is suffering disturbs us,” he said. “It makes us uneasy, since we have no time to waste on other people’s problems. These are symptoms of an unhealthy society. A society that seeks prosperity but turns its back on suffering.”
The pope continues: ‘We cannot be indifferent to suffering…Instead, we should feel indignant, challenged to emerge from our comfortable isolation and to be changed by our contact with human suffering.’
Helen wholeheartedly agrees. “Inspired by St Vincent de Paul, we are fired up to feed those in need, clothe them, befriend them and fight for them. Anyone who, to use the pope’s word, is ‘indignant’ about the suffering in the world should consider joining the women and men of the SVP, working in solidarity to make a difference – brothers and sisters all.”
To find out more about the SVP visit www.svp.org.uk.
Picture: Helen O’Shea. (SVP).