(Photo: Reuters/Tony Gentile)
Pope Francis said Saturday it is heartbreaking that the world today is more concerned about the health of banks than homeless children dying of starvation and cold, and called on the Catholic Church to seek out those who need help the most.
"This is happening today. If investments in banks fall, it is a tragedy and people say 'what are we going to do?' but if people die of hunger, have nothing to eat or suffer from poor health, that's nothing. This is our crisis today," the pope said, addressing a rally of about 200,000 people in the Vatican, according to Reuters.
The pope suggested this is reflected in what makes news, and what does not, in the media around the world.
"Today, and it breaks my heart to say it, finding a homeless person who has died of cold, is not news. Today, the news is scandals, that is news, but the many children who don't have food – that's not news. This is grave. We can't rest easy while things are this way," he was quoted as telling the crowd.
"It's not just an economic crisis… It's a deep crisis. We just cannot worry about ourselves ... close ourselves in a sense of helplessness," he added. "If we step outside of ourselves, we will find poverty," he said.
"A Church that is poor and for the poor has to fight this mentality… We cannot become starched Christians, too polite, who speak of theology calmly over tea. We have to become courageous Christians and seek out those (who need help most)," Pope Francis went on to say.
Before the rally, Francis met German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who briefly visited the Vatican on Saturday.
"I see continuity in the missionary aspect, in becoming aware of the importance of Christianity for our Christian roots," Merkel was quoted as saying.
Earlier in the week, the pope criticized "dictatorship of the economy," and spoke about the need for world financial reform. Later, Merkel called for stronger regulation of financial markets.
Soon after his election in March, Francis told the cardinals that the Church must not become just another charitable group without its divine mission, urging they must stick to the faith's Gospel roots and shun modern temptations.
When he addressed the media for the first time, the pope reminded Catholics that Jesus, not the pope, is at the center of the Church, which he said should be "poor, and for the poor."
The pope has urged leaders of the Church never to give in to discouragement, bitterness or pessimism but to keep focused on their mission. "Let us never give in to the pessimism, to that bitterness, that the devil places before us every day. Let us not give into pessimism and discouragement," he told the cardinals who chose him.
The pope recently appointed a group of eight cardinals who will help him bring changes in the church's administration, which has been plagued with scandals especially during the eight-year reign of Pope Benedict. The group will advise the pope in the governing of the Church in addition to making administrative changes.
After his election, the pope took the name of Francis, the most severe critic of the papacy before Martin Luther. Pope Francis caused a ripple through the Catholic faithful when the day before Good Friday he washed the feet of a woman – a Serbian Muslim inmate at a prison in Rome.