Earlier this year, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco sat with Cross Catholic Outreach for an interview about the Church’s mission of helping the world’s poor and vulnerable. His remarks have been edited for clarity.
Read the entire transcript and watch the full interview with Archbishop Cordileone here.
Archbishop Cordileone, as a member of our board of directors, how do you believe the work of Cross Catholic Outreach relates to Catholic social teaching?
Catholic social teaching has its basic principles about the dignity of the human person — about solidarity and about the spiritual and social nature of the human person. We are spiritual beings destined for a transcendent goal — our life in heaven — and we work out our salvation in the context of society, sharing generously of our gifts. Sharing generously of the gifts that God has given us [in order to stand] in solidarity with the poor is what the mission of Cross Catholic Outreach is all about.
One of the core values of Cross Catholic Outreach is “preference for the poor.” Can you talk about why we all should have a preference for the poor?
Certainly anyone who professes to be a follower of Jesus Christ must have a preference for the poor. Jesus became poor. He was God and became man, born into a working-class family, and then he lived as a poor itinerant preacher. He came to bring healing to the poor and identified with them, so anyone who wants to be a disciple of Jesus Christ must have a preference for the poor.
How can the Church expand its ministry to the poor?
One of the best things we can do is to bring people of means to encounter those who are struggling and experiencing material poverty. Human interaction is what changes hearts. [Ministry to the poor is] a spiritual endeavor that begins with personal human encounter.
Over the past several decades, the Church has used the term “integral human development” to describe what it sees as the best way to help the human person. Why is this method of helping the poor so effective?
Integral human development means not only the material, but the spiritual, emotional, psychological and social as well. All areas of life affect the others. We cannot attend only to one and ignore the others if we think we’re going to make an improvement and help people develop the whole person. We need to attend to all of them together.
Pope Francis has written that the poor “evangelize us.” What can our brothers and sisters living in poverty teach us about the Lord?
Here [in the U.S.], we have everything and people are depressed and miserable. There, they have nothing and they are happy — so it is a very valuable lesson that the poor can teach us about where real happiness in life lies.
Several years ago, Cross Catholic Outreach launched the Box of Joy ministry to bring Christmas presents to the poor. Can you speak to how important it is that we show children around the world God’s love?
Box of Joy is a way for children to experience the love of Christ. It is a material gift, but it has a spiritual message as well. In a way, it’s very sacramental. We’re using tangible, physical reality to communicate the love of Christ, and it doesn’t take much. Children don’t need big fancy toys. The greatest joys are in the simple things that engage their imagination and creativity. Through that, we can touch their hearts with the love of Christ.
As the Archbishop of San Francisco, you have many demands on your time. What does it mean to you personally to lend your support as a member of the board of directors for Cross Catholic Outreach?
I’m very proud of all that Cross Catholic Outreach accomplishes in serving the poor and those in destitute situations. It’s when we give generously of ourselves for the good of others that we experience real joy. I know that lending support as a bishop is helping the mission greatly. That is where I find my gratitude to God for this opportunity and the joy that comes from serving others.