World Day for the Poor “ties perfectly in with the New Evangelization,” he said, “because the New Evangelization is able to engage people by presenting the mercy of God and seeing people in that mercy.”
Pope Francis has announced the World Day for the Poor as an annual observance on the Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, a week before the Solemnity of Christ the King.
“This would be the worthiest way to prepare for the celebration of the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, who identified with the little ones and the poor and who will judge us on our works of mercy,” he said, adding that the event would also “represent a genuine form of new evangelization which can renew the face of the Church as She perseveres in her perennial activity of pastoral conversion and witness to mercy.”
In Rome, the event will begin with a Nov. 18 prayer vigil and solemn vespers for all those who volunteer in organizations or associations that care for the poor.
The vigil, which will be presided over by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Council for the New Evangelization, will be held at the Roman Basilica of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls, a venue symbolically chosen in honor of the saint who once said that “the treasure of the Church are the poor.”
The following morning, local poor and needy people will be bused to the Vatican for Mass with Pope Francis in St. Peter's Basilica, and will be offered a celebratory lunch afterward in different locations around Rome, including the Vatican's Paul VI Hall.
In addition, the council has arranged for Italian doctors, nurses and specialists from varying practices to provide free medical care to the poor and needy attending the World Day of the Poor. They will set up tents and offer free services to attendees the week prior.
The council is expecting around 3,000 people to participate in the event. Since not everyone will be able to fit in the Vatican's hall, other organizations and institutions have offered to host groups of the poor for lunch, such as the Pontifical North American College, which will serve around 200 people.
The meal, Syvla said, is meant to show attendees “that they are really special, and that we're honored to be with them.”
Flowers will be placed on all the tables, multiple courses will be served, and a group of children will come into the Paul VI Hall to sing, while a band plays outside.
Those serving lunch will include a group of deacons from the Diocese of Rome, which Sylva said is a “very symbolic” gesture.
The World Day of the Poor will also be celebrated in dioceses and parishes “around the world,” Sylva said.
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To this end, he said the council has developed a pastoral aid for parishes and schools, available on the council's website, which has already been given to bishops' conferences and nunciatures around the world.
Available in seven languages, the aid includes, among other things, prayer vigils, lectio divina prayers and the stories of Saints associated with the poor, “so it really will give priests and laypeople involved with leadership a concrete pastoral resource they can use with the people to whom they minister.”
Pointing to the logo for World Day of the Poor, Msgr. Sylva said the essence of the event can be summed up in the design, which portrays two people reaching toward each other – one from a doorway and the other from the outside – with a road in between.
“It's so beautiful because you almost don't know who's the one asking for assistance and who's the one giving assistance, but what we see is that this reciprocity, this shared essence in being in that the one on the outside realizes that to get in he's got to hold that hand out, and the one on the inside realizes that he or she has to go out in order to encounter one another,” he said.