The news that was announced on June 13th by Pope Francis, who wished there to be an international day dedicated to the poor, appeared totally in line with his pontificate that is so attentive to the needs of the vulnerable and discarded by society.
The response from associations, movements and institutions, as well single individuals and groups, was surprising.
The Focolare Movement in Italy embraced the invitation to “create moments of encounter and friendship, solidarity and concrete help,” to love “not only with words, but with deeds.” “Although we can learn from the poor,” say Rosalba Poli and Andrea Goller who are responsible for the Focolare in Italy, “nonetheless those who have more are called to give.” Not alms, not symbolic gesture to put ones conscience at peace; the invitation is to step out of our comfort zone and our certainties,” as the Pope says, “to go out to meet the thousands of faces of poverty.”
In Italy also the phenomenon is a cause of concern. According to a recent government report, nearly 5 million people are living in “absolute poverty.” Eight million and a half suffer “relative poverty.” It is a poverty of a thousand faces: marginalization, unemployment, violence, lack of aid. And mostly isolation, because being poor first of all means being excluded.
“The Day of the Poor takes us back to a primary aspect of the Focolare’s spirituality, the communion of goods,” Poli and Goller explain. “It’s a practice that has led to many social projects over the years, inspired by the desire to imitate the custom in the early Christian communities where no one was needy among them. Some of our projects include Arcobaleno Association, which has been active in Milan for more than 30 years; the La Pira Center for you foreigners in Florence; the Sempre Persona Project that helps prisoners to become reinserted into society and offers assistance to their families.
Then, the Apriamoci Project from the Trentino More cultural association, such as Facciamo Casa Insieme. Others distribute food, like the l’Associazione Solidarietà in Reggio Emilia, B&F in Ascoli, Associazione Città Fraterna and Comitato Umanità Nuova in Genoa. RomAmor is involved in helping the homeless around the Ostiense Train Stations, whereas other projects welcome refugees in Lampedusa and Ventimiglia. In Pomigliano d’Arco, the Legami di Solidarietà work in an area that is strongly marked by unemployment where mutuality and sharing has made a comeback.
Following the earthquake in central Italy, several Solidarity Buying Groups were instituted by the RImPRESA Project to provide on site support for local economic activities that had been damaged in the earthquake.
Alongside the consolidated projects, other projects have begun in the north and south of the country, often networking with institutions or associations that work in the social field. The intent is to become stable supporters of those living in poverty.
From Milan to Sicily, from Messina to Udine, there are food banks, listening centres, soup kitchens, recycling projects. There is also a home for separated parents, at the city gate of Cagliari.
Meanwhile, just a few days from its activation, the App Fag-8 project already has thousands of subscriptions. It’s a technological evolution of the custom of putting ones possessions in common, material things and also talents, ideas. By downloading the app it is possible for someone to share (also in someone else’s account), a material object, a project or one’s own time. It is a tool connected to total local a national networks, that allows one to find out in a short time whether what I’m looking for is available, or if I can answer someone else’s need.