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The Pope blesses  the statue of St Hannibal Mary

Rogate ergo Dominum messis ut mittat operaios in messem suam , “Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into his harvest” (Mt 9:38) is the Gospel passage which inspired the life and work of St Hannibal Mary Di Francia. The Holy Father blessed the statue of the saint on the morning of Wednesday, 7 July, before the General Audience.

St Hannibal Mary Di Francia, Founder of the Congregation of the Rogationist Fathers, is portrayed with the Gospel in hand, open at the page with the above-mentioned Gospel passage. The statue by sculptor Giuseppe Ducrot – together with other saintly founders of religious institutions – is set in a niche outside St Peter's Basilica, near the Arch of the Bells. The statue, which measures 5.3o m., was carved from a single block of white Carrara marble.

Hannibal, born in Messina on 5 July 1851, the apostle of prayer for vocations, dedicated himself to helping the city's poor, particularly in the ill-famed quarter of Avignone, by founding orphanages and congregations. After the devastating earthquake of 1908, Hannibal moved his charitable works to Puglia. He died on 1 June 1927 – the same year in which Joseph Ratzinger was born – and was canonized in 2004. He is numbered among the Social Saints of the 1900s and is also venerated as the father of orphans and of the poor.

At the blessing of the statue Benedict xvi invoked the Lord to send “worthy labourers of the Gospel” into his “harvest”, expressing the hope that all who contemplate this sculpture representing the Saint may be inspired by the “same spirit of charity to grow in love towards their neighbour”.

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Nov. 21, 2018

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