Pope Francis has told The Big Issue and its sister titles all around the world that they will “come back stronger than before” as they fight for survival during the Covid-19 lockdown.
The pontiff’s message of solidarity was included in his daily bulletin today as he recognised that vendors are no longer able to sell the magazine on the streets.
As The Big Issue has reported in recent weeks, that impact has been felt globally by street papers, not least at Scarp de’ tenis – the Italian street paper was singled out for special attention by Pope Francis.
I am sure that the large global network of street newspapers will come back stronger than before
He also praised street papers for the “stories of hope [they] tell” in a much-needed rallying cry.
The head of the Catholic church said in his bulletin: “The life of millions of people, in our world that is already gripped by many difficult challenges to face and oppressed by the pandemic, has changed and has been put to a harsh test. Those who are most fragile, the invisible, those without fixed abode, risk paying the heaviest price.
“I would therefore like to greet the world of street newspapers and especially their vendors, who are for the most part homeless; people who are gravely marginalised, unemployed: thousands of people who throughout the world earn a living and have a job thanks to the sales of these extraordinary newspapers.
The Big Issue magazine is a social enterprise, a business that reinvests its profits in helping others who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, or whose lives are blighted by poverty.
“In Italy, I think of the good experience of Scarp de’ tenis, the Caritas project that enables more than 130 people in difficulty to have an income and as a result, access to fundamental citizens’ rights. And not only this. I think of the experience of more than 100 street newspapers throughout the world, published in 35 different countries and in 25 different languages, and which guarantee employment and an income to more than 20,500 homeless people worldwide. For many weeks street newspapers have not been sold, and their vendors are unable to work. I therefore wish to express my closeness to the journalists, to the volunteers, and to those who earn a living thanks to these projects and who in these times are hard at work with many innovative ideas. The pandemic has made your work difficult but I am sure that the large global network of street newspapers will come back stronger than before. Looking at the poorest, in these days, can help us all to be aware of what is truly happening to us, and of our true condition. I send you all my message of encouragement and fraternal friendship. Thank you for the work you do, for the information you give, and for the stories of hope you tell.”
Pope Francis has always been generous with his time when it comes to street papers.
He was a Big Issue cover star in 2015 as we joined forces with other street papers to secure a rare exclusive interview with Pope Francis. Marc, a former magazine vendor from Dutch street paper Straatnieuws, had the honour of sitting down with the Pope in the Vatican.
And in 2017 we ran another interview with the pontiff, this time conducted by Scarp de’ tenis paper vendor Antonio Minnini.
Following his latest support for street papers, Maree Aldam, chief executive of the International Network of Street Papers, said: “The International Network of Street Papers is pleased to once again have the vocal support of Pope Francis, especially as the world’s most vulnerable and marginalised people face uncertain times ahead while society fights back against this pandemic.
“It is essential that world and community leaders of all stripes come together in solidarity to raise up those in poverty, and back the organisations – like street papers – that do such great work in helping those most in need.”
To support Big Issue vendors through the coronavirus crisis, you can subscribe to receive the magazine digitally or in print – head to bigissue.com/subscribe for details – or pick up a copy in Sainsbury’s, McColl’s, Co-op, Asda or WH Smith stores. You can also subscribe or download directly to your device from our new Big issue app, available from the App Store or Google Play.