Pope puts aside prepared speech to listen to homeless

What do you expect from the Church

Pope Francis on Saturday met with a group of formerly homeless people and asked them, “What do you expect from the Church?”

Francis had arrived with a prepared speech for the Association Lazare but put that aside. He opted instead to listen to his guests before giving a short off-the-cuff message.

The Lazare (Lazarus) Association was established to give homeless people a second chance. As an alternative to large shelters, the association offers regular-sized apartments where people live together with their own private bedrooms.

It welcomes homeless people who either come directly from ‘the street’ or from foster homes. They are also given administrative and job search support.

Association Lazare is active in Spain, France, and Belgium.

Around 200 formerly unhoused people were at the meeting, according to the French edition of the website Aleteia.

Aleteia reported that during the encounter, Pope Francis extended a personal invitation to those present to share their experience with the Church, with the question: “What do you expect from the Church?”

One person reportedly responded: “What we can give to the Church is who we are. What the Church has given me is life.”

A 62-year-old man named Gilles, who travelled by plane for the first time in his life for the papal visit, said: “I was appointed this morning to introduce the meeting. I, who am not even a good believer.”

The man, who described himself as very shy, lived for 11 years on the streets of Paris.

“For me, the Church is Lazarus [Association]. And there may not be enough Lazarus in the Church,” he said.

A 36-year-old Muslim identified only as Kader also spoke during the encounter.

“I, this morning, thanked the Church for welcoming me; me, a Muslim,” he said, according to Aleteia.

Kader spent 15 years in prison. After his release, he was sleeping on the streets of Lyon for two years before meeting members of Lazare.

The Pope urged those gathered not to give up in a society where they may feel isolated, rejected and suffer from exclusion. “Go forward, cultivating in your hearts the hope of a contagious joy,” he said.

He went on to say that their lives as witnesses to the Gospel remind us that “the poor are true evangelisers because they were the first to be evangelised. He called to share in the happiness of the Lord and His Kingdom.”


Catholic News Agency

Vatican News

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