‘Poverty Is a Disease With A Cure’

The International Plenary at the annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering was well attended by more than 400 people from across the country, all eager to hear the speakers and to learn about the launch of this new CRS/USCCB counter-poverty initiative.

There was a lot of chatter among the attendees before the session started. Many wondered how this initiative would be different from previous campaigns, how they could get involved and what the main tenets of the initiative would be.

Hundreds of participants donned buttons with the name of the initiative emblazoned on them: “Catholics Confront Global Poverty.” There was a feeling of eagerness among those I spoke with – almost an urgency of purpose. While many who attended the plenary know that eradicating global poverty is a huge challenge, there was also a collective understanding that it isn’t impossible. If anyone was going to bring attention to the issue of global poverty, to our elected officials, to the media, to Catholics throughout the country, this is the group to do it.

The room was filled to capacity as Steve Collecchi took the stage. Steve is the Director of the Office of International Justice and Peace at the USCCB. He welcomed the crowd and introduced Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, the Bishop of Albany, New York and Chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace. Long known for his leadership on domestic poverty issues, especially in connection with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and public policy advocacy in New York State, the Bishop is leading the Conference’s efforts to address global poverty. The Bishop gave a passionate speech about the new Catholics Confront Global Poverty initiative saying that our Holy Father in his recent World Day of Peace message set forth a challenge to all Catholics: fight poverty to build peace.

“Poverty has a face,” he said. “You see it in the faces of anguished parents watching their children languish in hunger, and in the faces of persons ravaged by disease and illness, too sick to support their families.” But he went on to say that “Poverty has a cure. You can see it in the faces of determined farmers harvesting drought resistant crops, and in the smiles of HIV-positive men and women restored to health by anti-retroviral drugs. You see it in the smiling faces of children getting an education at a local school, and in the intense faces of adults in literacy programs making them more productive farmers.”

“Poverty IS a disease with a cure,” the Bishop exclaimed. “It is the face of Christ crucified in poverty and the face of Christ risen in hope. As citizens of the United States and people of faith, we can be part of that hope.”

You could hear a pin drop in the room as Bishop Hubbard urged the attendees to help educate and mobilize their fellow Catholics to confront global poverty. In his final words, the Bishop quoted Pope Benedict by saying: “It is important that people everywhere feel personally outraged by the injustices in the world.” Only then can people work together to “redress the marginalization of the world’s poor” and “fight poverty to build peace.”

Only then, the Bishop said, can Catholics Confront Global Poverty.

– Elizabeth Griffin, CRS director of communication

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