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.