Pope Francis says "The love of Christ possesses us. I wish you to let yourselves be possessed by this charity: feel each day chosen for love..." FULL TEXT
ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE ITALIAN CARITAS IN THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE FOUNDATION
Paul VI Audience Hall - Saturday, June 26, 2021
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning and welcome, everyone!
I thank Cardinal Bassetti and the President of Caritas Italiana, Monsignor Redaelli, for the words they addressed to me on behalf of all. Thank you. You have come from all of Italy, representing the 218 diocesan Caritas and Italian Caritas, and I am happy to share with you this Jubilee, your fiftieth year of life! You are a living part of the Church, you are "our Caritas", as Saint Paul VI loved to say , the Pope who wanted and set it up. He encouraged the Italian Episcopal Conference to equip itself with a pastoral body to promote the witness of charity in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council , so that the Christian community would be a subject of charity.. I confirm your task: in the current change of era the challenges and difficulties are many, there are more and more faces of the poor and complex situations in the area. But - said St. Paul VI - "our Caritas are doing their best" ( Angelus , January 18, 1976). And this is true!
The 50th anniversary is a stage for which to thank the Lord for the progress made and for renewing, with his help, the enthusiasm and commitments. In this regard, I would like to show you three ways, three ways on which to continue the journey.
The first is the way of the last. It is from them that we start, from the most fragile and defenseless. From them. If you don't start with them, you don't understand anything. And I allow myself a confidence. The other day I heard, on this, words lived by experience, from the mouth of Don Franco, present here. He does not want us to say "eminence", "Cardinal Montenegro": Don Franco. And he explained this to me, the way of the least, because he lived this all his life. In him, I thank so many men and women who give charity because they lived it this way, they understood the way of the least. Charity is the mercy that seeks out the weakest, which goes to the most difficult frontiers to free people from the slavery that oppress them and make them protagonists of their own lives. Many significant choices, in these five decades, they have helped Caritas and local Churches to practice this mercy: from conscientious objection to support for volunteering; from the commitment in cooperation with the South of the planet to interventions in case of emergencies in Italy and in the world; from the global approach to the complex phenomenon of migration, with innovative proposals such as humanitarian corridors, to the activation of tools capable of bringing reality closer, such as listening centers, observers of poverty and resources. It is beautiful to widen the paths of charity, always keeping our gaze fixed on the least of all times. To widen the gaze, yes, but starting from the eyes of the poor in front of me. There you learn. If we are not able to look the poor in the eyes, to look them in the eye, to touch them with a hug, with the hand, we will do nothing. It is with their eyes that we need to look at reality, because looking at the eyes of the poor we look at reality in a different way from what comes into our mentality. History is not looked at from the perspective of the victors, who make it appear beautiful and perfect, but from the perspective of the poor, because it is the perspective of Jesus. greet, inviting us to change. And when our heart, our conscience, looking at the poor, the poor, does not worry, stop ..., we should stop: something is not working. that make it appear beautiful and perfect, but from the perspective of the poor, because it is the perspective of Jesus. It is the poor who put their finger on the wound of our contradictions and disturb our conscience in a healthy way, inviting us to change. And when our heart, our conscience, looking at the poor, the poor, does not worry, stop ..., we should stop: something is not working. that make it appear beautiful and perfect, but from the perspective of the poor, because it is the perspective of Jesus. It is the poor who put their finger on the wound of our contradictions and disturb our conscience in a healthy way, inviting us to change. And when our heart, our conscience, looking at the poor, the poor, does not worry, stop ..., we should stop: something is not working.
A second indispensable way: the way of the Gospel . I am referring to the style to have, which is only one, that of the Gospel. It is the style of humble love, concrete but not showy, which is proposed but not imposed. It is the style of free love, which seeks no rewards. It is the style of availability and service, in imitation of Jesus who became our servant. It is the style described by St. Paul, when he says that charity "covers everything, believes everything, hopes everything, endures everything" ( 1 Cor 13: 7 ). I am struck by the word everything. All. It is said to us, who like to make distinctions. All. Charity is inclusive, it does not only concern itself with the material aspect and not only with the spiritual one. The salvation of Jesus embraces the whole person. We need a charity dedicated to the integral development of the person: a spiritual, material, intellectual charity. It is the integral style that you have experienced in great calamities, also through twinning, a beautiful experience of all-round alliance in charity between the Churches in Italy, in Europe and in the world. But this - you know it well - must not arise only on the occasion of calamities: we need that Caritas and Christian communities are always in search of serving the whole person, because "man is the way of the Church", according to the synthetic expression of Saint John Paul II (cf.Redemptor hominis , 14).
The way of the Gospel shows us that Jesus is present in every poor person. It does us good to remember this in order to free ourselves from the ever-recurring temptation of ecclesiastical self-referentiality and to be a Church of tenderness and closeness, where the poor are blessed, where mission is at the center, where joy is born of service. Let us remember that God's style is the style of closeness, compassion and tenderness. This is God's style. There are two evangelical maps that help us not to get lost on the way: the Beatitudes ( Mt5: 3-12) and Matthew 25 (vv. 31-46). In the Beatitudes, the condition of the poor is clothed with hope and their consolation becomes reality, while the words of the Last Judgment - the protocol by which we will be judged - make us find Jesus present in the poor of all times. And from the strong expressions of judgment of the Lord we also draw the invitation to parrhesia of the denunciation . It is never a polemic against anyone, but a prophecy for everyone: it is proclaiming human dignity when it is trampled on, it is making the muffled cry of the poor heard, it is giving a voice to those who have none.
And the third way is the way of creativity . The rich experience of these fifty years is not a baggage of things to repeat; it is the basis on which to build to constantly decline what Saint John Paul II called the fantasy of charity (cf. Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte , 50). Do not be discouraged by the growing numbers of new poor and new poverties. There are many and they are growing! Continue to cultivate dreams of fraternity and to be signs of hope. Against the virus of pessimism, get immunized by sharing the joy of being a big family. In this fraternal atmosphere the Holy Spirit, who is creator and creative, and also a poet, will suggest new ideas, suitable for the times we live in.
And now - after this Lenten sermon! - I would like to say thank you, thank you: thank you, the operators, the priests and the volunteers! Thank you also because on the occasion of the pandemic the Caritas network intensified its presence and alleviated the loneliness, suffering and needs of many. There are tens of thousands of volunteers, including many young people, including those involved in the civil service, who have offered in this time listening and concrete answers to those in distress. I would like to pay attention to young people. They are the most fragile victims of this era of change, but also the potential architects of an era change. They are the protagonists of the future. They are not the future, they are the present, but protagonists of the future. The time dedicated to them is never wasted, to weave together, with friendship, enthusiasm, patience, relationships that go beyond the cultures of indifference and appearance. The "like ”to live: there is a need for fraternity, there is a need for true joy. Caritas can be a training ground for life to make many young people discover the meaning of the gift, to make them savor the good taste of finding themselves by dedicating their time to others. In doing so, Caritas itself will remain young and creative, it will keep a simple and direct gaze, which turns fearlessly towards the High and towards the other, as children do. Do not forget the model of children: upward and upward.
Dear friends, please remember these three paths and follow them with joy: starting with the least , preserving the style of the Gospel , developing creativity . I greet you with a phrase from the Apostle Paul, which we will celebrate in a few days: "The love of Christ possesses us" ( 2 Cor 5:14 ). The love of Christ possesses us. I wish you to let yourselves be possessed by this charity: feel each day chosen for love, experience the merciful caress of the Lord that rests on you and bring it to others. I accompany you with prayer and bless you; and I ask you to please pray for me. Thank you!