By Vatican News staff reporter
The Lazare (Lazarus) Association was established to give homeless people a second chance. As an alternative to large shelters, the Association offers regular-sized apartments where people live together with their own private bedrooms.
It welcomes homeless people who either come directly from ‘the street’, or from foster homes. They are also given administrative and job search support.
The Association is active in Spain, France, and Belgium.
Friendship and caring
In prepared remarks to members of the French “Lazare” Association on the occasion of its tenth anniversary, Pope Francis told them that they embodied “the social friendship that we are all called to live.”
“In an environment full of indifference, individualism and selfishness,” he underlined, “you make us understand that the values of an authentic life are found in welcoming differences, respecting human dignity, listening, caring and serving the most humble.”
Love for the other
Quoting from his encyclical Fratelli tutti, the Pope said, "Our love for others, for who they are, moves us to seek the best for their lives. Only by cultivating this way of relating to one another will we make possible a social friendship that excludes no one and a fraternity that is open to all."
The Pope urged those gathered not to give up in a society where they may feel isolated, rejected and suffer from exclusion. “Go forward, cultivating in your hearts the hope of a contagious joy,” he said.
Poor are true evangelisers
He went on to say that their lives as witnesses to the Gospel remind us that "the poor are true evangelisers because they were the first to be evangelised and called to share in the happiness of the Lord and His Kingdom.”
In words of encouragement, the Pope invited the group to "remain firm in your convictions and in your faith. You are the loving face of Christ. So spread around you this fire of love that warms cold and dry hearts.”
He also urged them not to be satisfied with a life of friendship and sharing between the members of their association, “but go beyond that.”
Go to the peripheries
“Dare to bet on love given and received freely,” Pope Francis said. “Go to the peripheries, which are often filled with solitude, sadness, inner wounds and loss of a zest for life. With your words and actions, pour the oil of consolation and healing on wounded hearts.”
In his concluding comments, the Pope told the members of the Association to never forget they are God's gift. “Even if the world looks down on you, you are precious, you count for much in the eyes of the Lord.”