Pope Benedict XVI clearly puts care for the poor at the heart of the Catholic Church. In his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), he said three things make the Church the Church: Proclaiming the Gospel, celebrating the Sacraments and caring for the poor. This love of the poor is an essential and defining activity of the Church. Benedict declares, “Love for widows and orphans, prisoners, and the sick and needy of every kind is as essential to her [the Church] as the ministry of the sacraments and preaching of the Gospel. The church cannot neglect the service of charity anymore than she can neglect the sacraments and the word” (#22).
This emphatic call is an extension of the great commandment to love our neighbor. In fact, Pope Benedict insists: “Love of God and love of neighbor have become one: In the least of the brethren we find Jesus himself, and in Jesus we find God.” And, our neighbor is anyone who needs our help and whom we can help (#15). In this encyclical, the pope states that today loving our neighbor has global dimensions since we see and respond to people’s struggles and needs almost instantaneously .(#30).