Benedict XVI's tears are the symbol that best sums up the meaning of his visit to the Caritas Hostel at Rome's Railway Station. They are the tears that welled up from the Pope's heart and from the hearts of many people present on hearing the simple and beautiful greeting of Giovanna Catholdo. Her voice cracked with emotion several times as she spoke “with words that are not mine but ours” – that is, on behalf of those faces and especially of those souls who have been at the hostel “for either a short or a long stay”.
And those faces and souls – men and women, children and elderly people, lost and rescued, suffering and comforted in the name of Christ's love – asked their Bishop to “stand up to the struggles of the world”. For this reason they assured him of their prayers, to implore from God serenity, strength and hope for Benedict XVI, especially “when rainy days alternate with the sunny ones”.
No one could have addressed words more moving and genuine to the Bishop of Rome – the Bishop of the Church identified since the first decades of Christianity as the one which presides in charity. This is why she sets the world an example. Not by chance does tradition bind to the memory of Lawrence the Deacon, the third great Roman Saint after Peter and Paul, and thus to the consideration of the poor as a precious treasure. “These friends of yours”, they were called by Benedict XVI, who – surrounded by his Bishops and the Cardinal Vicar – met and showed affection to dozens of them, together with the volunteers.
Along with the proclamation of the truth, the witness of charity is part of the Church's mission, as the Pope has emphasized by using the term caritas in the title of two of his Encyclicals. And this closeness of God, whom the Eastern liturgies describe as the “friend of man”, is brought to life through charitable structures like the one called after Luigi di Liegro, a priest whom Rome will never forget.
It was also the support of the public institutions, which took part in the Visit through their representatives, that made it possible to set up these structures.
The Vicar of Rome asked the institutions and authorities not to reduce their aid to the poor in this difficult period, during which hearts seem to harden and which instead requires the collaboration of all – believers and non-believers alike.
And this is what the European initiative that involves Bishops who follow and support the example of Benedict XVI aims to demonstrate. It is made up of many Bishops in Italy, in addition to the President of the Episcopal Conference and various others, including all the Bishops of Umbria. And in order to proclaim God the “friend of man”, Benedict XVI is close to the poor, those “friends” whom the Church treasures.
St. Peter’s Square
Sept. 22, 2019
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