VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Evangelizing the poor is central to the Gospel message and is less about giving social assistance than about converting hearts and healing wounds, Pope Francis said.

A Christian is a missionary called “to proclaim the Gospel with words and, even before that, with one’s life,” he said Jan. 24 before reciting the Angelus with visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

“To evangelize the poor: this is the mission of Jesus, according to what he himself says,” the pope said. “This is also the mission of the church and of every person baptized in the church.”


In the day’s Gospel reading from St. Luke, Jesus in the synagogue of Nazareth proclaims the fulfillment of Isaiah’s call to “bring glad tidings to the poor.”

Jesus’ words, Pope Francis said, summarize the work of evangelization and demonstrate his priority for “those who are furthest away: the suffering, the sick and those discarded by society.”

“What does it mean to evangelize the poor?” the pope asked. “It means above all being close to them, having the joy of serving them, freeing them from oppression, and all this in the name of and with the spirit of Christ, because he is the Gospel of God, he is the mercy of God, he is the liberation of God. It is he who was made poor in order to enrich us with his poverty.”

The Gospel challenges Christians to reflect if they “are faithful to the program of Christ” by making the evangelization of the poor a priority.

“Be attentive: This isn’t about giving social assistance, much less about political activity,” he said. “It has to do with the power of the Gospel of God, who converts hearts, heals the wounded and transforms human and social relationships according to the logic of love.”

Pope Francis prayed that through Mary’s intercession Christians may “bear concrete witness to the mercy that Christ has given to us.”