Pope Francis told members of The Papal Foundation that their contributions are helping combat "the many forms of material and spiritual poverty" present throughout the world.

"The needs of God's people throughout the world are great, and your efforts to advance the Church's mission are helping to fight the many forms of material and spiritual poverty present in our human family, and to contribute to the growth of fraternity and peace," the Pope said April 11 in the Vatican's Clementine Hall.

This year around 100 members of the Philadelphia-based foundation traveled to Rome during the week after Easter to present Pope Francis with their annual contribution.

They were able to present him with an $8.6 million donation, which he will be able to use during the coming year for his charitable activities.

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, president of the foundation, has been leading the pilgrimage to Rome, and he highlighted the connection between the Pope's emphasis on the poor and the foundation.

"From the first day of his election, Pope Francis has reminded us of the Church's fundamental responsibility to the poor and marginalized," the cardinal said in an April 11 press release.

William Canny, the foundation's Chief Operating Officer, pointed out that the annual pilgrimage is "always a deeply spiritual experience, but this year we were especially blessed to have a private audience with Pope Francis as he sets the course for his papacy.

"These are exciting, hope-filled days for the Church, and for a world in need," Canny stated.

During today's audience, Pope Francis recalled that over the last 25 years the foundation has "helped the Successor of Saint Peter by supporting a number of apostolates and charities especially close to his heart."

The donations from the foundation have helped fund the formation of clergy and religious, provided shelter for the homeless, offered medical assistance and care for the poor and needy, and created educational and employment opportunities.

Father Patrick Okoye, a priest of the Diocese of Awka in Nigeria, is one recipient of a Papal Foundation scholarship, which has made it possible for him to study spirituality at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

In an April 10 interview with CNA he said that The Papal Foundation "has changed my life, brought a new geography, and I feel a more deep sense of commitment to the Church, and to give back what has been given to me generously."

The foundation, Fr. Okoye reflected, has provided him with a "great community of love" where he has met many priests, nuns and other people who have been blessed to receive the financial help they needed.