A homeless man is seen feeding pigeons as he sits on a sidewalk Oct. 30 in New York City. Pope Francis will celebrate the Catholic Church's first World Day of the Poor Nov. 19. CNS photo/Jason Szenes, EPA
A homeless man is seen feeding pigeons as he sits on a sidewalk Oct. 30 in New York City. Pope Francis will celebrate the Catholic Church's first World Day of the Poor Nov. 19. CNS photo/Jason Szenes, EPA

By Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis will celebrate the Catholic Church's first World Day of the Poor Nov. 19 by celebrating a morning Mass with an estimated 4,000 people in need and those who assist them. After Mass, he will offer lunch to 1,500 people in the Vatican audience hall, and multiple satellite sites will host hundreds of other guests.

 The special designation came about as the Year of Mercy was ending in November 2016. Pope Francis told people he wanted to set one day aside each year to underline everyone's responsibility "to care for the true riches, which are the poor."

The result was the World Day of the Poor, which is to be marked annually on the 33rd Sunday of ordinary time on the Church's liturgical calendar.

An admonition from St. John Chrysostom "remains ever timely," Pope Francis said in a message for the 2017 celebration. He quoted the fifth-century theologian: "If you want to honor the body of Christ, do not scorn it when it is naked; do not honor the eucharistic Christ with silk vestments and then, leaving the Church, neglect the other Christ suffering from cold and nakedness."

The Pope chose "Love not in word, but in deed" as the theme for 2017.

The Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization is coordinating the celebration. One of the primary goals of the day, the council said, is to help Catholics answer the question, "Who are 'the poor' today, and where are they around me, in the area in which I live?" and then to find ways to share and create relationships with them.

The resource book also offered 18 "saints and blesseds of charity of the 20th and 21st centuries" as examples. The list is led by St. Teresa of Kolkata, but also includes Blessed Oscar Romero of San Salvador and U.S. St. Katharine Drexel and Blessed Stanley Rother.

Among the seminaries and soup kitchens who are helping to host the day’s special guests for lunch will be the North American College, the U.S. seminary in Rome -- located on the hill above the Vatican.

"We are expecting a group of just over 200 guests to be coming to the college for 'pranzo,'" said Father David A. Schunk, assistant vice rector of the college. "The group will be dining in our refectory."

"Our regular Italian kitchen staff will be cooking the meal, and it will be a combination of students and staff who will be serving our guests," he said. The meal will be "typical Italian" with bread, a pasta dish, a second course of meat and vegetables, followed by fruit and dessert.

"We were asked by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization to contribute to this initiative of the Holy Father and are very pleased to be able to participate," he said, "especially since the American holiday of Thanksgiving will occur later in the week."

Serving the lunch Nov. 19 "will be another reminder to the college community of our call by Christ to reach out, with what we have received, to our brothers and sisters throughout the world who live in various forms of poverty."

A resource book from the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization – now available online at www.pcpne.va -- includes Scripture meditations, sample prayer services and suggestions for parishes and dioceses.