Pope says when giving to those in need, 'look at their faces'

(Photo: REUTERS / Gian Matteo Crocchioni / Pool)Pope Francis is greeted by nuns as he leaves after visiting the Hermitage of the Carceri during his pastoral visit in Assisi October 4, 2013. Pope Francis visits Assisi, the Italian town that was home to his namesake St. Francis of Assisi. Pope Francis took his name from the saint who is revered around the world as a symbol of austerity, simplicity, concern for the poor and a love of the environment.

Giving money to those desperately in need, is not just about the cash, but it needs some attentiveness to the person pleading for help, says Pope Francis.

The pontiff spoke about the relationship between mercy and almsgiving in his April 9 address to a monthly meeting of the Jubilee of Mercy, Vatican Radio reports.

"When you give, give generously and not with a stingy heart," said Francis.

This means, "that charity requires, before all else, an attitude of interior joy – offering mercy cannot be a weight or a nuisance," from which we quickly free ourselves.

Instead when practising mercy by giving alms, the giver should "look into the faces" of those they are helping, so as to see their true needs said the Pope.

"In short, almsgiving is an act of love directed towards those we meet; it is an act of sincere care for those who are near to us and who seek our help."

Francis noted that almsgiving is intimately related to mercy. He said that throughout the Bible, God calls us to have a particular care for the poor, the destitute, strangers, orphans, widows.


"The Bible speaks of almsgiving as a God-given duty, which must be carried out freely and joyfully, but also with a sense of responsibility," said the Pope.

"We need to distinguish the truly poor from the various forms of begging which do not help them."

"Almsgiving is a gesture of love which directs us toward those we meet," the Pope said in his catechesis. "It is a gesture of sincere attention to those who come to us and ask our help."

"We should not identify almsgiving simply with a (hastily given) monetary offering" he said, "without looking at the person, and without stopping to talk, to understand what they really need."

In off-the-cuff remarks, the Pope challenged the faithful as to whether they are able to "stop and look in the face, look in the eyes, of the person who is asking for my help."

The gathering in St. Peter's Square was the latest in a monthly series of special audiences for the Holy Year of Mercy, held in addition to the weekly general papal audiences.

The Jubilee of Mercy is an Extraordinary Holy Year that officially began Dec. with the opening of the Holy Door in St. Peter's Basilica and it will close Nov. 20.

Going off-script, Pope Francis spoke on the hesitancy to give away money on the argument that the receiver will just use it "to buy wine get drunk."

"But if he is drunk, it is because he does not have another path!" said the Pope, Catholic News Agency reports.

"And you, what do you do in hiding, that no one sees? And you judge that poor man who asks for a coin (to buy) a glass of wine?"

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