Pope to the proud and powerful: Help the poor, or you’ll go to hell

(Crux) In his annual Lenten message, Pope Francis warned the “proud, rich, and powerful” that if they ignore the poor at their door — who represent Christ himself — they’ll end up in the solitude of hell.

The pope’s annual message was an appeal for all Christians to use the 40-day season that starts Feb. 10 leading up to Easter to “overcome our existential alienation” by listening to God and practicing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

According to the Gospel, Francis wrote, those who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the infirm, give counsel, and practice forgiveness do so as though to Christ himself.

“By touching the flesh of the crucified Jesus in the suffering, sinners can receive the gift of realizing that they, too, are poor and in need,” Francis wrote.

Christ becomes visible in the tortured, the crushed, the scourged, the malnourished, and the exiled, he wrote, and particularly in those who around the world who suffer for their faith.

It’s only through works of mercy that the powerful and wealthy can be embraced and loved by Jesus, who was crucified and rose for them, the pope said. [More]