AT THE DIOCESE OF PIAZZA ARMERINA AND DI PALERMO
ON THE OCCASION OF THE 25th ANNIVERSARY OF DEATH
OF BLESSED PINO PUGLISI
MEETING WITH THE FAITHFUL - ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
Piazza Europa (Piazza Armerina)
Saturday, September 15th 2018
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
I'm glad to be among you. The sun of Sicily is beautiful! It's nice! Thank you for this warm welcome! I thank the Bishop Mgr. Rosario Gisana, the Mayor and the other Authorities, as well as all those who have collaborated on this visit.
Your Bishop has just recalled the choice that the Church of Piazza Armerina is making with joyful hope, amid the various problems that limit the serenity of this territory. There are not a few sores that afflict you. They have a name: social and cultural underdevelopment; exploitation of workers and lack of dignified employment for young people; migration of whole family units; usury; alcoholism and other addictions; gamble; fraying of family ties. And in the face of so much suffering, the ecclesial community may appear, at times, disoriented and tired; sometimes, thanks to God, it is lively and prophetic, while seeking new ways of announcing and offering mercy above all to those brothers who have fallen into disaffection, in mistrust, into the crisis of faith. Because it's true: it is not easy to carry on the faith among so many problems. It's not easy, I understand it.
To consider the wounds of society and of the Church is not a denigratory and pessimistic action. If we want to give substance to our faith, we must learn to recognize in these human sufferings the same wounds of the Lord. Look at them, touch them (see John 20:27). To touch the wounds of the Lord in our wounds, in the wounds of our society, our families, our people, our friends. Touch the sores of the Lord there. And this means for us Christians to take the history and the flesh of Christ as a place of salvation and liberation. I urge you, therefore, to commit yourselves to the new evangelization of this center-Sicilian territory, starting from its crosses and sufferings. After completing the bicentenary of your Diocese, an exciting mission awaits you, to revive the face of a Synodal Church and the Word; Church of missionary charity; Church Eucharistic community.
The perspective of a synodal Church and of the Word requires the courage of listening to each other, but above all listening to the Word of the Lord. Please do not put anything before the essential center of Christian communion, which is the Word of God, but make it your own especially through the lectio divina, a wonderful moment of meeting heart to heart with Jesus, of stopping at the feet of the divine Master. The word of God and synodal communion are the hands of those who live among hopes and disappointments and invoke a merciful Church, ever more faithful to the Gospel and open to the reception of those who feel defeated in body and spirit, or are relegated to the margins. To carry out this mission, it is necessary to always refer to the spirit of the first Christian community which, animated by the fire of Pentecost, courageously witnessed the Risen Jesus. Enter with confidence, dear brothers and sisters, in the time of discernment and fruitful choices, useful for your happiness and for harmonious development. But to go forward in this, you must be accustomed to the Word of God: read the Gospel, every day, a small step of the Gospel. It does not take more than five minutes. Maybe a little Gospel in your pocket, in your bag ... Take it, look, and read. And so, every day, like a drop by drop, the Gospel will enter our hearts and make us more disciples of Jesus and stronger to go out, to help all the problems of our city, our society, our Church. Do it, do it. I ask the Bishop to facilitate the possibility of having a small Gospel for all those who ask him, to take him with him. Reading the Word of God will make you strong.
To be a Church of missionary charity, attention must be paid to the service of charity which today is required by concrete circumstances. Priests, deacons, consecrated persons and lay faithful are called to feel evangelical compassion - this word is clear, it is what Jesus felt: evangelical compassion - for the many evils of the people, becoming itinerant apostles of mercy in the territory, in imitation of God who "is tenderness and wants to lead us to constant and renewing itinerancy" (Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et exsultate, 134). With simplicity you go through the alleys, the crossroads, the squares and the places of working life, and bring to everyone the good news that a coexistence is right between us, pleasant and lovable, and that life is not an obscure curse to bear fatalistically, but trust in the goodness of God and in the love of the brothers.
It is important to foster evangelical love, solidarity and fraternal solicitude in parishes and communities, avoiding the worldly temptation of quiet living, of passing it well, without worrying about the needs of others. I encourage you to continue in your ecclesial service which is expressed in concrete works: Caritas listening centers, canteens and shelters for the most unfortunate brothers, structures to host refugee and disoriented Jesus and houses of love for the elderly, often alone and discouraged. Please do not leave the elderly alone! Our grandparents. They are our identity, they are our roots, and we do not want to be an uprooted people! Our roots are in the old ones. Come on! Take care of the elderly, the old. Taking care of grandparents. And that young people talk to their grandparents, so they will take root. Do not forget that Christian charity is not content to assist; does not expire in philanthropy - two different things: Christian charity and philanthropy - but it pushes the disciple and the whole community to go to the causes of the inconveniences and try to remove them, as much as possible, together with the needy brothers, integrating them into our work.
One aspect of missionary charity is also to pay attention to young people and their problems. I see here many boys and young people, who color the assembly with hope and joy. Dear friends, you young people, boys and girls, I greet you all and encourage you to be joyful architects of your destiny. Always look ahead, without forgetting the roots. Know that Jesus loves you: He is a sincere and faithful friend who will never abandon you; you can trust him! In moments of doubt - we all have had bad, doubtful young moments - in times of difficulty, you can count on Jesus' help, especially to nourish your great ideals. And to the extent that everyone can, it is also good that you trust the Church, called to intercept your needs for authenticity and offer you an alternative environment to the one that pains you every day, where you can rediscover the taste of prayer, union with God, of the silence that brings the heart to the depths of your being and of holiness. So many times I have heard some young people say: "Yes, I trust God, but not of the Church" - But why? - "Because I'm anticlerical". Ah, you are a scapegoat, then approach the priest and say: "I do not trust you for this, for this and for this". Come closer! Also approach the Bishop, and say to him: "I do not trust this Church, for this and for this reason". This is brave youth! But with the desire to hear the answer. Maybe that day the priest will have a bad liver and he will drive you away, but it will only be for that time, he will always tell you something. To listen! To listen! And you, priests, have patience, constructive patience to listen to the young, because there are always seeds of the future in the youth's restlessness. And you have to take them, and help the young to move forward. It takes dialogue.
The third element that I show you is that of the Church Eucharistic community. From there, from the Eucharist we draw the love of Christ to take him to the streets of the world, to go with him to meet our brothers. With Jesus, with Him - this is the secret - we can consecrate all reality to God, make sure that his Face is imprinted on the faces, his love fills the voids of love. As for participation in Holy Mass, especially on Sunday, it is important not to be obsessed with numbers: I urge you to experience the bliss of smallness, of being a mustard seed, small flock, a fist of yeast, tenacious flame, small pebbles salt. How many times have I heard: "Ah, father, I pray, but I do not go to Mass, I will not go" - But why? "Because the sermon bores me, it lasts forty minutes!". No, forty minutes must last all Mass. But the preaching more than eight minutes does not go.
The Eucharist and the ministerial priesthood are inseparable: the priest is the man of the Eucharist. I address a particular thought to priests, good brothers, and exhort them to gather around the Bishop and among themselves to bring the Lord to all. Dear priests, how necessary it is to patiently build the joy of the presbyteral family, loving each other and supporting one another! It is nice to work together, considering the confreres "superior to yourselves" (cf. Phil 2: 3). In the midst of God's people entrusted to you, you are called to be the first to overcome the barriers, the prejudices that divide; the first to pause in humble contemplation before the difficult history of this earth, with the wise pastoral charity which is a gift of the Spirit; the first to indicate paths through which people can go towards open spaces of redemption and true freedom. Consoled by God, you can be comforters, wipe away tears, heal wounds, rebuild lives, broken lives that trustfully entrust themselves to your ministry (cf. Acts 5: 14-16). To you priests, I allow myself to give a recipe, I do not know if it will serve: how do I end the day? Do I need to take the pads to sleep? Then something did not go well. But if I finish the day tired, tired, things are fine. This is an important point.
Dear brothers and sisters, it would be nice to be together a little longer! I feel the warmth of your faith and the hopes you bring into your heart, but I am awaited in Palermo, where we will remember the grateful martyr priest Pino Puglisi. I heard that, twenty-five years ago, just a month before his killing, he spent a few days here in Piazza Armerina. He had come to meet the seminarians, his students at the major seminary in Palermo. A prophetic passage, I believe! A delivery, not only to the priests, but to all the faithful of this diocese: for the love of Jesus, serve the brothers until the end! I entrust you all to the Virgin Mary, whom you venerate as Our Lady of Victories. In silence, now silently pray to her: "Hail Mary ...". She supports you in spiritual combat and directs you decisively towards the victory of the Resurrection. I bless you all from my heart and I ask you to please pray for me. Good day everyone!
Now I will give you the blessing, but let's prepare the heart to receive it. Everyone thinks about his loved ones, because this blessing falls on loved ones. Think of his friends. And you also think about the enemies, the people I do not love, and who do not love me. Open everyone's heart, for this blessing descends on everyone.