BY JOHN THAVIS IN ROME
POPE BENEDICT XVI paid a visit to a Church shelter for the homeless on Sunday and said concrete acts of charity were essential expressions of the Christian faith.
“Know that the Church loves you deeply and will not abandon you, because it recognises in each of you the face of Christ,” the Pope said at a Caritas hostel and medical centre near Rome’s main railway station on Sunday. The doctors, nurses and some 300 volunteers at the centre applauded the German Pontiff as he toured the complex during a 90-minute visit.
The Pope noted that tough economic times had made Church-run social services even more necessary. Over the last two years the Caritas centre has seen a 20 per cent increase in the number of people seeking help.
The Pope said the centre was “a place where love is not only a word or a sentiment, but a concrete reality that allows the light of God to enter into the life of people and the civic community”.
He said the Church’s actions in favour of the needy were a natural expression of faith in Christ, who identified in a particular way with the poor. “In its service to people in difficulty, the Church is motivated solely by the desire to express its faith in God who is the defender of the poor and who loves people for what they are, and not for what they possess or accomplish,” he said.
The Pope cited his social encyclical of 2009, Caritas in Veritate, saying that charity was a necessary principle not only in personal relations but also in larger economic dealings. That is an urgently needed principle “in a world in which, instead, the logic of profit and the search for self-interest seems to prevail”, he said.
Before leaving the centre the Pope accepted the gift of a restored crucifix from the town of Onna, which suffered severe damage in the 2009 earthquake in central Italy.