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Tuesday, 24 September 2013 13:49

Lazarus at Our Gate: A critical moment in the fight against world poverty

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This year Social Justice Sunday is celebrated on 29 September. Each year, to mark the occasion, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference issues a Social Justice Statement. 

The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Social Justice Statement for 2013–2014 is titled: ‘Lazarus at our Gate: A critical moment in the fight against world poverty’, and calls on the Christian community and all Australians to stand in solidarity with our neighbours around the world who are living in conditions of extreme poverty. 

The title of the Statement comes from the Gospel reading for Social Justice Sunday this year – Jesus’ parable about the poor man, Lazarus, who lies unnoticed at the gate of the rich man (Luke 16:19–31). 

The Statement urges all Australians to focus on our obligation to help the world’s poorest and to work to combat poverty wherever it is found. Although progress has been made over the past decade in the fight against extreme poverty, one billion people still live on less than $1.25 per day, and 20 per cent of the world’s poor live in countries near Australia.

‘In our region’, the Bishops say, ‘Australia is the rich man and Lazarus is at our gate.’

Five groups in particular need our support. They are: people who face severe hunger; people who are victims of disaster; Indigenous peoples; people with disability; refugees and displaced people. 

In 2000, the world leaders of 189 nations, including Australia, gathered together and committed themselves to tackling global poverty. Their Declaration gave rise to eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to be achieved by 2015. While great progress has been made over the past decade, many of these goals will not be fulfilled: Around the world, a quarter of a million women still die in childbirth each year and eight million children die annually from malnutrition and preventable diseases. One billion people remain in extreme poverty and 20 per cent of the poorest in the world live in countries near Australia.

It is time to renew our commitment to address world poverty, a commitment inspired by the mission of Jesus in his Incarnation and in his gift of the Eucharist. Pope Francis has reminded us of our vocation: ‘Fighting poverty, both material and spiritual, building peace and constructing bridges’.

Click on this link for the Social Justice Statement, Liturgy and Education Resources and the PowerPoint.

Prayer for Solidarity

God of all creation

You have given us the beautiful land we call Australia.

Rich in ancient culture and tradition,

Rich in landscape, plants and animal life;

Rich in resources, laws and social structure,

Offering safety and opportunity.


Teach us to see those who are at our gates,

To act justly so all may come to the table and

To weep for those who perish before they are invited.


Where there is hunger in our world

May we share our food and resources

and contribute our skills and knowledge

to create a sustainable food supply.


Where there is disaster

May we respond quickly and generously

To bring relief to those injured and deprived of homes

and help them to rebuild their lives and communities.


Where there are people who are disabled

May we see them first as people

and work tirelessly to ensure they are always included

and have the resources to reach their full potential.


Where people are displaced from their own lands,

Especially those who seek refuge on our shores,

May we dare to put ourselves in their shoes

And welcome them to share in the life gifted to us.


Where Indigenous communities are displaced

in their own land,

May we acknowledge the wrongs of the past,

Recognise the richness of their culture

And empower all Indigenous Peoples

to determine their own future.


God of all creation

Give us clear eyes to see the whole world

So that we may never take for granted the gifts you have given

Or think they belong to us alone.

Give us open hearts to reach out from our comfort

and open our gates

To walk in new solidarity with our neighbours.