Edward Pentin’s Vatican Notebook
Pope Benedict XVI has made his second visit to Rome’s needy and homeless in two months, visiting a shelter at Rome’s Termini train station on Sunday.
Emphasising the importance of charity in promoting human dignity and building a civilisation of love, the Pope reminded those present that the Church loves the poor and indigent “deeply and will not abandon you, because it recognises in the countenance of each of you that of Christ”.
Referring to his recent social encyclical the Holy Father underlined that beyond man’s need for material and moral support he has the necessity of knowing who he is and knowing the truth about himself and his dignity. “As I recalled in the encyclical Caritas in Veritate, without truth, charity becomes sentimentalism,” the Pope said. “Love becomes an empty shell, to be arbitrarily refilled.” He said the Church, with its service on behalf of the poor, “is therefore charged to proclaim to all the truth about man, who is loved by God, created in his image, redeemed by Christ and called to eternal communion with him”. And he added that through the work and example of the shelter’s volunteers, “numerous men and women are able to feel in a tangible way that their lives are protected by the Love that is God, and because of this they have a meaning and an importance”.
Such profound certainty, he continued, “generates in man’s heart a powerful, solid, luminous hope”, and he called on the volunteers to be “joyous witnesses” of God’s infinite charity, to consider these “friends” whom they help “a treasure more precious than your life”.
But he didn’t limit his address to the needy and volunteers. The Pope also took the opportunity to call on Catholics in governments to do their part by promoting peaceful coexistence and helping others rediscover “the dimensions of gift and gratuity” in interpersonal relations. “All of that becomes day after day ever more urgent in a world in which the logic of profit and pursuit of one’s own interests seem to prevail instead,” he said.
Benedict XVI thanked the shelter’s volunteers and benefactors and stressed the Caritas hostel is a place “where love is not only a word or a sentiment, but a concrete reality” which allows God’s light to enter and give hope.
The Pope has made a point of making several pastoral visits to Rome’s poor during his pontificate. Just after Christmas he shared a meal with the needy and homeless at Sant’Egidio’s soup kitchen in the city.
Thousands of pilgrims have been flocking to Padua this week for a six-day exposition of St Anthony of Padua’s mortal remains. It’s been 29 years since the previous exposition which has taken place just four times in the past 800 years. On this occasion it marks the completion of a restoration of the saint’s tomb. Locals have been doing their bit, making special cakes and offering free coffee for the many pilgrims expected. St Anthony, a Franciscan renowned for his preaching, died at the age of 36 in 1231 and was canonised less than a year later by Pope Gregory IX.