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Pope Francis’ message of compassion

MARC MORIAL | 10/5/2015, 12:43 p.m.
“I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, ...

(NNPA) – Like power, with compassion comes great responsibility. So much more than a feeling, the person with compassion is compelled to transform their compassion into intent, and most importantly, action. To be compassionate is to see, to feel and to do something.

The recent arrival of Pope Francis on our shores has rekindled our national conversation over how we will protect and care for our marginalized, provide access to our disenfranchised communities and promote justice for all.

Francis, the spiritual leader of more than a billion Catholics the world over, has placed the poor and the treatment of the poor at the center of his papacy. But, his message of mercy, compassion and service as the engines of much-needed change is not solely limited to Catholics. It is a message that can transcend boundaries of faith, gender, political cultures or borders, and transform the entire world for the benefit of the common good.

While calls for societal change precede the pope, his papacy and his status as a respected global leader gives added voice to the voiceless and the oppressed, and encourages the men and women who have decided they would no longer observe (or suffer) injustice from the sidelines – instead they would advocate, and when necessary, agitate for a more just society for the excluded and marginalized among us.

From Moses to the man registering students to vote, or the woman fighting for environmental justice in an impoverished community today, for as long as inequality has plagued society, people have always appeared in the pages of history to carry the heavy and unavoidable banner of change. For Francis, this call to action is motivated by God’s presence, which he said in his final homily in Cuba, “never leaves us tranquil: it always pushes to do something. When God comes, He always calls us out of our house. We are visited so that we can visit others; we are encountered so as to encounter others; we receive love in order to give love.”

For more than 100 years, the National Urban League has dedicated itself to loving, visiting and encountering people and communities in their times of need. Our mission – like the mission of so many people of faith dedicated to changing lives and reforming the structures that compromise the quality of life of the most vulnerable – is to establish mechanisms and policies aimed at economic empowerment in order to elevate the standard of living in historically underserved urban communities. This cross-section of compassion and social justice has been, and continues to be, a defining element of our existence and struggle across a range of social justice movements.

The pope is visiting the United States at a pivotal time in our history, when justice and equality is facing challenges on many fronts. We face challenges in the constitutional right of citizens to vote; we are experiencing a rash of deaths of Black men at the hands of police officers who are rarely held accountable; equity in funding and resources for public schools remain a distant reality; and the economic gap that exist between the rich and the poor continues to widen.