Walk in another's shoes, Pope encourages in interview

Pope Francis 1 walking up to St Peters Basilica on June 3 2015 before the Wednesday general audience Credit Bohumil Petrik CNA 6 3 15 Pope Francis walking up to St. Peter's Basilica on June 3, 2015 before the Wednesday general audience. | Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

In an interview published Tuesday, Pope Francis spoke about what it means to care for and be present to the people in our communities – whether they are widows, orphans, migrants, or the homeless – and why this is important.

"It is very tiring to wear the shoes of others," he said, "because often we are slaves of our selfishness. On one level we can say that people prefer to mind their own problems without wanting to see the suffering or the difficulty of another."

"There is another level, however. To wear the shoes of others means to have a great capacity to comprehend, to understand the circumstance and difficult situations."

The Pope's latest interview was published Feb. 28 in "Scarp de tenis," a monthly periodical supported by Caritas Ambrosiana and Caritas Italiana. Based out of Milan, Italy, Caritas Ambrosiana interviewed Francis ahead of his planned trip to the diocese on March 25.

We all need understanding, companionship, and advice, the Pope noted. This is why even though it is difficult, we should try to put ourselves in another's place and to understand what they are going through. To do so means to perform acts of service with humility and magnanimity.

In the case of migrants and refugees, Francis said that they are fleeing wars or famines that are often in part our fault, because we have exploited their land but not invested in it in a helpful way.

"They have the right to emigrate and are entitled to be welcomed and helped," he said.

Regarding how many migrants a country should accept, he said that governmental leaders should practice the virtue of prudence: accommodating, in regards to numbers, however many they reasonably can.

It can be even more important, however, to not just reflect on how many we can accept, but how we will help them integrate into their new country, the Pope said, continuing his recent emphasis on the importance of integration for migrants.

"To integrate means to enter the life of the country, respect the law of the country, respect the culture of the country but also to enforce their own culture and their own cultural riches," he said. "Integration is a very difficult job."

"Each country then has to see what number it can accommodate. It cannot be upheld if there is no possibility of integration."

Like migrants, "integration" is something we should also try to achieve for the poor and homeless, he said. This is why we must do more than simply "toss the poor only some change."

"Certainly it is not easy to integrate a homeless person, because each of them has a special story. For this we have to get close to each other, find ways to help them and give them a hand."

It is always right to help, even more so to look into the person's eyes and touch their hands while we do so, he said.

"There are many arguments to justify yourself when you do not give alms," he acknowledged, such as the question of whether the person will spend the money on alcohol.  

Rather than worrying about this, the Pope advised, "ask yourself what you do in secret? What 'happiness' do you search for in secret?"  

"Unlike him, you are more fortunate, with a house, a wife, children, that tells you 'Take care of him.'"

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Pope Francis told a story about how while he was an archbishop in Buenos Aires, there was a family and a couple who lived on the streets outside of his office. "Someone said to me: 'They soil the Curia,' but the dirt is inside."

"I think you have to talk to people with great humanity, not as if they had to repay a debt and not treating them as if they were poor dogs," he said.

Francis said that among the poor, he has seen much greater solidarity than in other areas of cities. Even though there are more problems, "often the poor are more loyal to each other, because they feel that they need each other."

"I found more selfishness in other neighborhoods," he continued.

Asked what he expects to see in Milan when he goes to visit, Francis said he wasn't sure, since he's only been to the city once, and only for a few hours, back in the 1970s. "I expect to meet so many people. This is my greatest expectation," he said, "Yes, I expect to find so many people."

He said that is the only thing that he misses greatly from being in Buenos Aires: "the ability to go out and go through the street. I like to go on a visit to the parishes and meet people."  

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