People who don’t give money to the homeless because they think it will be spent on alcohol and not food should ask themselves what guilty pleasures they are secretly spending money on, Pope Francis said.
“There are many excuses” to justify why one doesn’t lend a hand when
asked by a person begging on the street, he said in an interview
published the day before the beginning of Lent.
But giving something to someone in need “is always right,” and it
should be done with respect and compassion because “tossing money and
not looking in (their) eyes is not a Christian” way of behaving, he
The interview, published Feb. 28, was conducted by the monthly
magazine, “Scarp de’ Tenis” (Tennis Shoes), which serves homeless and
marginalized people in Milan and is run by the local and national
The pope was scheduled to visit Milan March 25.
Of the several questions the pope was asked, one focused on whether
he thought giving money to people begging on the street was the right
thing to do.
One thing people may tell themselves to feel better about not giving
anything, the pope said, is “I give money and then he spends it on
drinking a glass of wine.”
But, the pope said, if “a glass of wine is the only happiness he has
in life, that’s OK. Instead ask yourself what do you do on the sly? What
‘happiness’ do you seek in secret?”
Or, another way to look at it, the pope said, is recognize how “you
are luckier, with a house, a wife, children” and then ask why should the
responsibility to help be pushed onto someone else.
The way one reaches out to the person asking for help is important,
he said, and must be done “by looking them in the eyes and touching
When encountering people who live on the street, the pope said he
always greets them and sometimes inquires about their lives and
He always chatted with a homeless family and couple that lived next
to the archbishop’s residence in Buenos Aires, Argentina, he said, and
never considered getting rid of them.
When “Someone told me, ‘They’re making the chancery filthy,’ Well, the filth is within” one’s heart, he said.
It’s important to be sincere because “people who live on the streets
understand right away when the other person is really interested” in
them as a person or when they just feel pity, he said.
“One can look at a homeless person and see him as a person or else as
if he were a dog, and they notice this different way of looking” at
them, he said.
When the interviewer asked why the pope thought the poor were capable
of changing the world, he said that in his experience in Buenos Aires,
he saw more solidarity in the slums than in less poor neighborhoods,
where “I encountered more selfishness.”
While there are many more problems in the shantytowns, “often the
poor are more supportive of each other because they feel they need each
Also, he said, problems are more starkly evident in the poor
neighborhoods, for example with substance abuse, “you see more drugs,
but only because it’s more ‘covered up’ in other neighborhoods” where
users are “white-collar” abusers.