The Chair of the Catholic Bishops' Council for Justice has lamented a growing disregard for the weakest in society and a growing sentiment that poverty is the fault of the poor.

In a statement marking the first World Day of the Poor, Bishop John McAreavey urged people to show compassion for weak, poor, sick and homeless people. 

Bishop McAreavey, who is based in Co Down, has said he was moved by the simplicity and starkness of Pope Francis' message marking the inaugural World Day of the Poor, particularly its accusatory statement that "love has no alibi."

The bishop has called on people throughout the island to act now by sharing with the poor.

Bishop McAreavey cited the example of the more than 50,000 families who are expected to call on the help of the St Vincent de Paul Society this winter.

He said they need financial support and prayers.

He said that while symptoms of economic poverty and social exclusion must be addressed, it is vital that Ireland also address what he calls the "structural violence in Irish society" through which "wealth accumulates in the hands of the privileged few, often in connection with illegal activities and appalling exploitation of human dignity".

He lamented that, in some quarters, if the marginalised are spoken of at all, assumptions are readily made about them and the areas they come from, with little recognition of the life chances with which they started out.