On Wednesday Pope Francis met with a group of poor and disabled pilgrims, calling them the "treasures of the Church," and entrusting them with the special task of praying for the proud, greedy, vain and hypocrites.

"The treasures of the Church are the poor," the Pope told a group of 200 poor, sick and disabled pilgrims from the French diocese of Lyon, and gave them a special mission. This mission, he said, is one that "only you in your poverty will be able to fulfill."

He noted how in the Gospel, Jesus was at times "very severe and strongly reproached" those who didn't welcome his Father's message.

While Jesus spoke the beautiful words that "blessed are the poor, the hungry, those who weep, those who are hated and persecuted," he also said another word, which coming from him "is scary: he said 'woe.'"

Jesus said this "to the rich, to the wise, to those who now are laughing, to those who like to be adored, to the hypocrites," Francis noted, and gave his audience the task "to pray for them, so that the Lord changes their hearts."

He asked them to pray "for those guilty of your poverty so they convert," and to pray for wealthy people who "make merry with large banquets without realizing that at their doors there are many Lazaruses eager to be fed the leftovers of their table."

Francis also encouraged the pilgrims to pray for priests who, like the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan, see someone in distress and pass by, "looking the other direction because they don't have compassion."

The Pope also urged pilgrims to pray for those who share in their poverty, and to smile at these people "from the heart, desiring their good and ask Jesus for their conversion."

"I assure you that if you do this, there will be great joy in the Church, in your hearts and also in the beloved France."

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Pope Francis met with the group, headed by the Archbishop of Lyon, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall July 6.

Since the Pope is taking a break from his general audiences for the month of July, the small, private meeting with the Lyon pilgrims served as a replacement for the weekly encounter.

In his speech, Francis said that no matter what their condition, story or burden is, Jesus is the one "who unites us inside himself" and welcomes each person as they are.

Jesus was also tested during his life, the Pope said, telling the pilgrims that this serves as proof that "you are precious in his eyes, and that he is close to you."

Francis told the group that they "are in the heart of the Church" since during his life Jesus "always gave priority to people like you, who lived similar situations." The Church, "who loves and prefers what Jesus loved and preferred," he added, can't rest until she has reached all those who experience rejection, exclusion and "who don't count for anyone."

As people suffering in the flesh, the poor and disabled show us how to encounter Christ, since they speak to us about him with their "entire lives," the Pope said.

He said that each one of them bears witness to the importance of "small gestures," reminding us that "we are brothers and that God is Father for all of us."

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Before closing his speech Pope Francis offered special thanks to the caretakers and those who assist the sick and disabled, telling them that a life lived alongside the poor "transforms and converts us."

Not only do caregivers go out to meet the needs of even those who are ashamed and hidden, they "walk with them, endeavoring to understand their suffering, to enter into their desperation."

Furthermore, "you raise a community around them, thereby restoring to them an existence, an identity, a dignity," Francis said, explaining that the Jubilee of Mercy is the ideal opportunity to rediscover and live solidarity, fraternity and mutual support.

He closed his speech by asking the pilgrims to maintain courage and hope in the midst of their anguish, telling them that as witnesses of Christ, "you are intercessors before God who grants in a very special way your prayers."

After closing his speech Pope Francis led the group in praying the Our Father in French, and took the time to greet each person individually before leaving the hall.