VATICAN CITY – The "poor in spirit," the pure and the merciful, whom Jesus described as "blessed," are the same people the world considers to be "losers," Pope Francis told Catholic young people.
But Jesus offers his followers the true path to happiness, the pope said in his message for World Youth Day 2014.
The message, released Feb. 6 at the Vatican, focused on the beatitude: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Pope Francis has chosen the beatitudes as the themes for World Youth Day 2014-2016.
"To be blessed means to be happy," the pope said.
Explaining how true happiness includes being "poor in spirit," the pope said he knew it seemed strange to link happiness and poverty.
But, he said, in the Bible being poor isn't just about having few material possessions.
"It suggests lowliness, a sense of one's limitations and existential poverty. The 'anawim' (God's poor) trust in the Lord, and they know they can count on him."
The pope said his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, "understood perfectly the secret of the beatitude" and demonstrated that by living "in imitation of Christ in his poverty and in love for the poor."
To be poor in spirit, the pope told young people, they must learn to be detached from material things, living simply, being concerned about the essentials, but "learning to do without all those unneeded extras."
Poverty in spirit also requires "a conversion in the way we see the poor," Pope Francis said.
That means meeting them, listening to them, caring for them and offering them both material and spiritual assistance, he said.