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Bishop: Reducing Poverty Will Help Bring About the Kingdom
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Thursday, February 2, 2012
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A volunteer unpacks frozen chicken at a parish food pantry.
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (CNS)—While Jesus said we will "always have the poor" with us, "if each of us stops on his or her own journey to help a neighbor in need, the kingdom of God will come closer to realization each day," said Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, in a pastoral letter on poverty.

With his words, Jesus "provides a sad reminder that due to the way we think about and react with each other, we will 'always have the poor' with us," added Bishop Murry.

But Jesus also called upon his followers, he said, "to see and love our neighbors as ourselves."

"There is a sense that we have lost our historic concern for the poor among us. Sometimes we hear language and share attitudes that deride persons living in poverty," said the bishop, who also is secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The pastoral, "Who Is My Neighbor?" was dated January 2012 to coincide with National Poverty Awareness Month.

Poverty "is not a simple problem" because it "involves family dynamics, minimal material resources, missed opportunities, personal fears, complex relationships, cultural norms, geographic locations, isolation and lack of understanding," Bishop Murry said.

"Some who are poor are embarrassed to admit they have lost their jobs, their homes, and sometimes even their identity. Feeling hopeless and abandoned adds to the fear that their lives will never be what they were because they are too old for the job market and possess skills that are out of date," he added.

"Despite all of that complexity and regardless of the causes, the church continues to respond in numerous ways," he said.

"The church alone, however, cannot solve the problem of poverty. To succeed at first reducing and eventually eliminating poverty, everyone must be involved including the private and governmental sectors, along with religious and community agencies, and each one of us individually."

Bishop Murry added, "The church has no specific technical plan of action tailored to this present economic downturn. But what it does have is two thousand years of experience of hat policies and programs offer the best hope and practical means to help families move beyond poverty. That experience is rooted in the Scriptures."

One instance Bishop Murry used was the parable of the good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke, who took a risk and helped a man abandoned on the side of the road. The story, he said, "reminds us of our dual obligation to love God and neighbor."

Poverty in Ohio, lower than that of the United States in 2000, grew at a faster rate than the nation as a whole by 2010. And in almost every instance, the counties and major cities within the Youngstown Diocese have higher poverty rates than Ohio overall, topped by the cities of Youngstown, Canton and Warren, each with poverty rates of 30 percent and up.

"Trade-offs are made each day by families living in poverty: Do they eat, pay rent, buy gas for the car, purchase prescriptions, or buy clothes? Trying to plan and manage a budget on a very limited income is a process that few can master," Bishop Murry said.

"We as the church in northeastern Ohio must remain committed to respond both in charity and in justice to the needs and hopes of those who struggle while living in poverty."

He praised the work of the U.S. bishops' Catholic Campaign for Human Development, saying it has "helped large numbers of low-income and middle/upper-income persons work in solidarity to find common and just solutions to economic problems and better their lives. The campaign deserves our support."

Bishop Murry also pointed to the seven corporal works of mercy—feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit those in prison, bury the dead—as touchstones for dealing with their neighbor.

"We, the church, are given many resources to care for each other. We, therefore, must act with works of charity and works of justice deeply rooted in our faith and life of prayer."


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