VATICAN CITY — Giving to others in need is not enough; people must look those they help in the eyes and be willing to touch their poverty with their hands and hearts, Pope Francis said.
Meeting Jan. 5 with members of the Unicoop supermarket cooperative, which is based in Florence, Italy, the pope said Christians must “be close to the people we help.”
When hearing confessions, he said, he asks people if they give to the poor, to which people often answer “yes.”
“And tell me, when you give to the poor, do you look in the eyes of the person, touch their hand, or throw the money there?” the pope said he asks in reply.
“Touch, touch poverty, touch,” he told the group, encouraging them to develop “a heart that touches, to look and to understand.”
Hundreds of members of the supermarket cooperative were present for the meeting with the pope in the Vatican audience hall. According to data on Unicoop’s website, it has more than a million members and nearly 8,000 employees.
Pope Francis told them that caring for consumers entails going beyond tending to their commercial needs, it should also recognize and support their humanity, Pope Francis said.
“Safeguarding the good of a person means not only taking care of some of their interests” in a particular sector, but also promoting the full realization of their dignity, he said.
The pope praised the cooperative’s projects promoting cultural initiatives in Florence and throughout Italy, as well as the work of its charitable foundation, “Il Cuore Si Scoglie” (“The Heart Melts”), which supports humanitarian projects abroad.
“The heart is a source of knowledge,” the pope said. Although some may argue that knowledge is gained through the mind and intellect, “this only gives an incomplete knowledge.”
“Without the heart there is no human knowledge,” he said. “In order to know, we must know with the mind, with the heart and then act with our hands.”