The poor

The “poor” in the Instrumentum Laboris

The IL starts well by quoting the opening line of Gaudium et Spes – twice in fact in the document.

There are several other references to the “poor and vulnerable,” the “poor and suffering,” the “hungry,” the “poor and traumatised,” the “preferential option for the poor and vulnerable.”

However, none of the references seem to treat the poor as acting subjects or agents. They are rather objects of “concern.”

Compare with Pope Francis, Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the Fifth World Day of the Poor, 14 November 2021

2. The poor, always and everywhere, evangelize us, because they enable us to discover in new ways the true face of the Father. “They have much to teach us. Besides participating in the sensus fidei, they know the suffering Christ through their own sufferings. It is necessary that we all let ourselves be evangelized by them.

3.  Jesus not only sides with the poor; he also shares their lot. This is a powerful lesson for his disciples in every age.

7. With great humility, we should confess that we are often incompetent when it comes to the poor. We talk about them in the abstract; we stop at statistics and we think we can move people’s hearts by filming a documentary.  Poverty, on the contrary, should motivate us to creative planning, aimed at increasing the freedom needed to live a life of fulfilment according to the abilities of each person.


The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties, of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts1.


In speaking of the “great challenges of our time” and of the need to develop “pastoral initiatives adapted to the circumstances of each community”, Pope John Paul II is inviting us to respond to “the joys and hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted”, and to scrutinize the signs of the times and interpret them in the light of the Gospel.


Inclusive, Participatory and Synodal: Despite some Catholics’ experience of alienation and hurt through the Church, there is a deep desire for Church communities and agencies to imitate the inclusive and invitational presence of Jesus in our society, with particular concern for the poor and vulnerable, for the young and for family life, for the diverse ranges of rites and spirituality within the Catholic family, and for the particular gifts and challenges of women and men in society.


To “The Least of These” (Matt 25:40)—The Inclusion of the Poor in Church and Society

While the missionary impulse leads Christians to encounters with every human person and every culture, we recognise a compelling sign of Christ’s presence in the lives and conditions of the poor and marginalised people of our society. In those who are considered “the least” (Matt 25:40) according to social attitudes and priorities, Christians are challenged to see the “blessed’ of God’s kingdom (Luke 6:20). And recognising this sign of God’s preferential concern for the weak, “the Church surrounds with love all who are afflicted… indeed in the poor and suffering it recognises the face of its poor and suffering Founder”.


Recognising that fewer people today participate in the sacramental life of the Church than in previous times, the question of how best to provide formation on the sacraments arises. Such formation will need to focus on both deepening people’s faith and increasing their knowledge. A dimension of this formation must be the ethical and missionary implications of the Eucharist for the Church’s communion of faith will always be incomplete while the poor go hungry, for “we cannot properly receive the Bread of Life without sharing bread for life with those in want”


The National Consultation has called for stronger efforts by Catholics and all Australians to care for the natural environment of the earth and all its forms of life.158 Many Catholics draw inspiration from Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’: On Care for our Common Home, which underscores the interdependence of all forms of existence in God’s gift of creation and the responsibility of humanity as stewards and custodians of our “sister earth”.159 The growing awareness of our ecological responsibility is one of the clearest signs of the times and has become a constitutive dimension of the Church’s preferential option for the poor and vulnerable. As the Australian Bishops have stated:

The Church hears the cries of the poor and the groans of the earth. It seeks to stand in solidarity with the poor and the marginalised, and to exercise good stewardship of the fragile ecosystems that support life on earth. Every day more Christians are becoming aware of their responsibilities as people of faith towards God’s Creation.


In the present context of the Church in Australia, Mary’s steadfastness at the foot of the cross is especially significant. As she did with Jesus, so are we called to stand in solidarity and compassion with each other, particularly the wounded, the poor and the traumatised. We, too, are called to be witnesses to the suffering of Jesus relived in the many survivors of sexual abuse, in the pain of our First Nations peoples and in the lives of all who suffer.

Stefan Gigacz


All Together in Dignity (ATD Quart Monde)





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