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Pope Francis visits Assisi ahead of the World Day of the Poor Pope Francis visits Assisi ahead of the World Day of the Poor 

Pope in Assisi: Polish pilgrims bring messages of hope

A group of Polish pilgrims, representatives of the Barka Foundation, are taking part in Pope Francis’ visit to Assisi, bringing with them messages of hope for recovery and social reintegration.

By Vatican News staff reporters

Ahead of the 2021 celebration of World Day of the Poor, more than 500 people in various situations of difficulty have arrived in Assisi, the city of St Francis, for a moment of prayer and sharing with Pope Francis – an occasion of fraternity to remind the poor that the Church listens to them.

Among those taking part in the event is a group of pilgrims representing the Barka Foundation in Poland, an aid organisation founded in Poland in 1989 to respond to growing social problems that arose as the nation emerged from Communist oppression.

The people chosen to represent Barka “are our brothers and sisters from different community homes based on farms across Poland,” said Ewa Sadowska, the daughter of Barka founders Barbara and Tomasz Sadowski. “Those are rehabilitation communities run by Barka for over thirty years.”

Ewa explained to Vatican Radio’s Olivier Bonnel that, through living and working together, “eating at one table,” the people served by Barka – people suffering from addictions, homelessness, family violence, long-term unemployment, and other issues, are able to “rebuild their lives.”

Listen to the interview with Ewa Sadowska

She said that by living and working together, “we realized that with love, and trust, and community spirit, people – even with the worst life problems – when they have a loving family around them and a little bit of work, and are given some responsibilities can change their lives,” and can overcome even “terrible” problems in their lives.

The group of representatives in Assisi, she said, were all recovered or recovering alcoholics. “They will look you in the eye and tell you about their lives, they’re very happy to share,” Ewa said. “And those are stories of hope.”

Ewa said her group is “expecting to be filled with the spirit… the spirit of meeting others, of connecting, of networking, hearing the address of Pope Francis – who is very close to our hearts – and taking it back to the communities where they live, taking it to [their] brothers and sisters who are still struggling,” who for various reasons were unable to come to Assisi.

“I think we came to charge [our] batteries,” Ewa said, “to become strengthened on this path, [the] path towards recovery, towards sober, honest lives, and to take this message to others who are struggling, who couldn’t be here.”

Barka is focused on “building a culture of solidarity, based on mutual assistance, and interpersonal and social relationships,” established on the belief “that there are no irretrievably lost people.” A non-government organisation, Barka provides people in socially marginalized groups “with a chance to rebuild their lives by creating a program of mutual aid, education, and the development of entrepreneurship in civil society.”

They operate numerous community house programs, educational and reintegration programs, and programs for promoting new jobs and social cooperatives for the long-term unemployed, as well as numerous other projects. Barka is operative in Poland, the UK, the Netherlands, Ireland, Germany, Iceland, and Canada.

Interview by Olivier Bonnel. Christopher Wells contributed to this report.

12 November 2021, 11:00