Pope's 1st key letter: 'Blessed are the poor'

MANILA, Philippines – True to his name that symbolizes poverty, Pope Francis will discuss the poor in his first encyclical, an Italian bishop said after a meeting with the pontiff.

In his diocese's official newsletter for Sunday, May 26, Italian Bishop Luigi Martella said the Pope revealed this in a meeting with Italian bishops. Francis said two encyclicals – key papal letters that tackle Catholic doctrine – will come out soon.

The Pope reportedly said his predecessor, Benedict XVI, is preparing an encyclical on faith that Francis will sign. Before he resigned, Benedict XVI declared October 2012 to November 2013 the "Year of Faith." 

“Later, (Pope Francis) himself will prepare his first encyclical on the poor: 'Beati pauperes (Blessed are the poor),'” Martella said. Francis told the bishops he will tackle poverty “not in the ideological and political sense, but in the evangelical sense.”

The phrase, “Blessed are the poor,” comes from a set of biblical teachings called the Beatitudes. In these teachings, Jesus promotes a life of simplicity and sacrifice, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Since he became the first Latin American pope, the world's 1.2 billion Catholics have seen in Francis a special devotion to the poor. It all began with his choice of the name Francis, which comes from 12th-century friar who lived in poverty. 

'World ruled by money'

The Pope's latest statement alone tackles the plight of the poor.

On Friday, May 24, Francis slammed the “fetishism of money” while millions remain displaced, abused, and are even trafficked.

“We are living in a world ruled by money. We live in a world, in a culture ruled by the fetishism of money,” the Pope said in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People.

He said the Church “renews her strong call that the dignity and centrality of each person be always protected, in respect of fundamental rights.”

On Labor Day, May 1, Pope Francis condemned "slave labor" particularly in Bangladesh, after a factory collapse killed 400.

The Pope said: "Not paying fairly, not giving a job because you are only looking at balance sheets, only looking at how to make a profit. That goes against God!"

Francis, who has made other radical statements, has also slammed a self-centered Catholic Church. On Wednesday, May 22, for instance, he criticized "intolerant" believers who claim that atheists, among other non-believers, "cannot do good." – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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