On Saturday, 28 August, Pope Francis received in audience a group of 200 members of the French ‘Lazare’ Association (known in English as the Lazarus Association), an international organization that “brings together young working adults and homeless persons to share a home, living in community”. Together in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope heard a number of witnesses and shared a conversation with the group, then consigned the prepared discourse, which is translated here from the original French.
I welcome you to Rome on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Lazarus Association. I thank your representative for his kind words. I greet each one of you with affection and, through you, I express my spiritual closeness to all the members of your association in different countries.
I thank God for the beautiful experience you create in cohabitation and fraternity, which is lived out on a daily basis. You have an opportunity here to be, not only for yourselves but also for the world, a window to display the social friendship that we are all called to live. In an environment strewn with indifference, individualism and selfishness, you help us understand that the values of an authentic life are found in accepting differences, respecting human dignity, listening, attention to others, and service to the most humble. Indeed, “love for others, for who they are, moves us to seek the best for their lives. Only by cultivating this way of relating to one another will we make possible a social friendship that excludes no one and a fraternity that is open to all” (Fratelli Tutti, 94).
In society, you may feel isolated, rejected and endure exclusion. But do not give up, do not get discouraged. Go forward, cultivating in your hearts the hope of an infectious joy (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 88). Your witness of life reminds us that “the poor are true evangelizers, for they were the first to be evangelized and called to share in the Lord’s joy and his kingdom” (Message for the Fifth World Day of the Poor, 13 June 2021).
Dear friends, I invite you to remain steadfast in your convictions and in your faith. You are the loving face of Christ. So spread around you this fire of love that warms cold and dry hearts. Do not be satisfied with just a life of friendship and sharing between the members of your association, but go further. Dare to take a chance on love given and received freely. Go out to the peripheries, which are often filled with loneliness, sadness, inner wounds and loss of the zest for life. With your words and actions, pour the balm of consolation and healing on tormented hearts. Never forget: you are the gift, God’s present day; you have a special place in his loving heart. Even if the world turns a scornful gaze upon you, you are precious, you count for a great deal in the eyes of the Lord. I wish to repeat it again: God loves you, you are his privileged ones. So do not let yourselves be robbed of the joy of living and helping others to live.
I entrust each of you and your families to the Lord, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, and I impart my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing to you, to your leaders present here and to the members of the association throughout the world.
Please do not forget to pray for me.