FRANCIS TO DETAINEES: WE ARE ALL EQUAL BEFORE THE FATHER
Vatican City, 22 September 2013 (VIS) - “Thank you all for being here. In your faces I see weariness, but also hope. Be aware that you are loved by the Lord, and also by many good people who with their prayers and their works help to alleviate the suffering of their neighbour. I feel at home here. … Here we feel strongly and in a concrete way that we are all brothers. Here the only Father is our celestial Father, and the only Master is Jesus Christ. So, the first thing I wish to share with you is precisely this joy of having Jesus as a Master, as a model of life. … We all face difficulties, all of us. … All of us here – all of us – have weaknesses, all of us are frail. No-one is better than another. We are all equal before the Father, all of us!”
With these words Pope Francis addressed the detainees and the poor assisted by Caritas who gathered to meet with him yesterday in the Cathedral of Cagliari.
“Looking to Jesus we see that He has chosen the path of humility and service. … He was neither indecisive nor indifferent: he made a choice and carried it through until the end. He chose to make himself a man, and as a man to become a servant, unto death on the cross. This is the path of love; there is no other. Therefore we see that charity is not a simple question of providing assistance, and far less a form of assistance for quieting consciences. No, that is not love, that is sales, that is business. Love is free. Charity and love are a life choice, a way of being, of living, it is the way of humility and solidarity. … This word 'solidarity'... in our throwaway culture, in which what we do not need, we cast aside, leaving only those who consider themselves righteous, who feel pure, who feel clean. Poor things! This word, solidarity, risks being cancelled from the dictionary, because it is an inconvenient word, because it obliges us to look to others and to give ourselves to others with love”.
But the path of humility and solidarity, added the Pope, was not invented by priests; rather, it was a path taken first by Jesus, and was not a form of “moralism or sentiment. The humility of Christ was real, the decision to be small, to stay with other small people, with the excluded, to stay among us, all of us sinners. But be careful: this is not an ideology! It is a way of being and living that begins with love, that starts from the heart of God”.
“But it is not enough to watch, it is necessary to follow! … Jesus did not come into the world to be seen … it is a path and the purpose of a path is to be followed”, the Pope emphasised, thanking the detainees for their efforts in following Him, even in their weariness and suffering inside the prison walls. He also gave thanks to all those who dedicate themselves to works of mercy, encouraging them to continue and reminding them that works of charity must always be done “with tenderness, and always with humility”.
“At times”, he observed, “we encounter arrogance in the service of the poor. I am sure you have seen this. … Some make themselves look good by speaking of the poor; others exploit the poor for their own interests or those of their group. This is a grave sin, as it means using the needy, those who are in need, who are Jesus' flesh, for one's own vanity. I use Jesus for my own vanity, this is a serious sin! It would be better for people like this to stay at home!”
To follow Jesus on the path of charity means “to go with Him to the existential peripheries... For the Good Shepherd, that which is lost and disdained is in need of greater care. … In the Church, the first are those who have the greatest human, spiritual and material need”.
Following Christ in the path of charity means “to sow hope … those who hold political and civil responsibilities have a task, which as citizens they must actively undertake. Some members of the Christian community are called to engage in the political sphere, which is a high form of charity, as Paul VI said. But as a Church we all have a strong responsibility, and that is to sow hope through works of solidarity, always seeking to collaborate in the best way with the public institutions, with respect for their various competences. Caritas is an expression of community, and the strength of the Christian community is helping society to grow from within, like leaven. I think of your initiatives with detainees in prisons, I think of the voluntary work of many associations, of solidarity with families who suffer the most from lack of work. In this I say: have courage! Do not allow yourselves to be robbed of hope, and carry on! On the contrary, sow hope”.
At the end of the meeting, Francis met to pray with the cloistered nuns of the city of Cagliari, whom he encouraged to go forward with the certainty that “the Lord has called you to support the Church in prayer”.