Reach out and touch the poor, Pope says in Lent message

Tue Feb 4, 2014 6:40am EST
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By Philip Pullella

ROME (Reuters) - Pope Francis called for a fair distribution of wealth and equal access to education and health care on Tuesday in a Lenten message where he urged people to reach out and touch "the poverty of our brothers".

In his message for the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter, he also said Christians should help those suffering from moral poverty, such as the "thrall" of alcohol, drugs, gambling and pornography.

During Lent, which begins on March 5 this year, Christians are called on to carry out acts of self-denial and help those less fortunate.

Francis, who was known as the slum pope in his native Buenos Aires because of his visits to the poorest people, said the wounds of poverty "disfigure the face of humanity" and were crying out to be healed.

"We Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it," he said.

He again called on the wealthy to share their good fortune, to not be blind to the needs of others, and not to practice superficial solidarity or vain displays of self-denial.

"When power, luxury and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distribution of wealth," Francis said. "Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing."

Francis said material poverty and moral destitution were often intertwined.   Continued...

Pope Francis looks on as he celebrates a mass in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican February 2, 2014. REUTERS/Tony Gentile