Pope Francis says "...combine in the concreteness of daily life the social and health service and the evangelizing action." Full Text


Paul VI Hall
Thursday, 31 October 2019

Dear brothers and sisters!

I welcome you and thank your President, and your friend, for the words of greeting and presentation of this beautiful welfare and social reality which is the Don Carlo Gnocchi Foundation, which flowed from the mind and heart of this distinguished Ambrosian priest. In the homily of the Beatification, which took place in Milan ten years ago, Cardinal Tettamanzi pointed him to the Church as "a restless seeker of God and a courageous seeker of man, who consummated his life in the search for the face of Christ imprinted on the face of every man". How beautiful!

In fact, Blessed Don Carlo Gnocchi, apostle of charity, served in a heroic way Christ in children, young people, the poor and the suffering, from the beginning of his priestly ministry, as a passionate educator. Then, as a military chaplain, he experienced the cruelties of the Second World War, first on the Greek-Albanian front, then, with the Alpines of the "Tridentine" Division, in the dramatic Russian campaign. During the disastrous retreat from that front, he did all he could with indefatigable charity for the wounded and the dying, and developed the design of a work in favor of the orphans and the mutilated by the outbreak of war bombs. Once back in Italy, he implemented this wonderful project; his was not just a social enterprise, but moved by the charity of Christ. A work, a fruit of Christ's charity.

After so many years, you carry on your heritage and, as a precious talent, you are multiplying it with the same apostolic zeal and the same fidelity to the Gospel. I am grateful to each of you for this: directors and managers of the centers, doctors and operators, volunteers and friends. And you are here today, together with the patients, the guests and their families, to confirm your commitment to proximity to the sufferings of the most fragile people, with the style of the Good Samaritan and the example of your Blessed Founder. Do not tire of serving the last on the difficult frontier of sickness and disability: together with the most advanced therapies and techniques for the body, offer to those who trust in your structures the medicines of the soul, that is, consolation and tenderness of God.

Inspired by the care, the delicacy and the priestly sensitivity of Blessed Carlo Gnocchi, you are called to combine in the concreteness of daily life the social and health service and the evangelizing action. For you this means courageously fighting the causes of suffering and lovingly caring for the discomfort of suffering or struggling people. Times have changed with respect to the origins, but it is necessary to go on with the same spirit, with the attitude and style that Don Gnocchi described in this way: "Christians active, optimistic, serene, concrete and deeply human; who look at the world no longer as an enemy to be killed or run away, but as a prodigal son to be conquered and redeemed with love "(Education of the heart).

The meaning and value of the health profession and of every service rendered to the sick brother are fully manifested in the ability to combine competence and compassion, both together. Competence is the fruit of your preparation, of experience, of updating; and all this is supported by a strong motivation of service to the suffering neighbor, a motivation which in the Christian is animated by the charity of Christ. Competence is the quality that makes the testimony of the lay faithful in the various areas of society credible; competence also guarantees you when you go against the mainstream of the dominant culture: in your case, when you dedicate time and resources to a fragile life, even if someone may seem useless or even unworthy of being lived.

Competence and compassion. The suffering of the brothers asks to be shared, asks for attitudes and initiatives of compassion. It is a question of "suffering with", pitying like Jesus who for man's sake made himself a man in order to be able to share fully, in a very real way, in flesh and blood, as is shown in his Passion. A society that is not capable of welcoming, protecting and giving hope to the suffering, is a society that has lost the pity, that has lost the sense of humanity. The vast network of centers and services that you have created in Italy and in other countries is a good model because it seeks to combine assistance, acceptance and evangelical charity. In a social context that favors efficiency with respect to solidarity, your structures are houses of hope, whose purpose is the protection, enhancement and the true good of the sick, the disabled, the elderly.
Dear friends, I renew my appreciation for the service you render to those who are in difficulty. I encourage you to continue your journey in the commitment to human promotion, which is also an indispensable contribution to the Church's evangelizing mission. In fact the proclamation of the Gospel is more credible thanks to the concrete love with which the disciples of Jesus testify to the faith in Him.

The human and Christian witness of Blessed Don Carlo Gnocchi, characterized by love for the weakest, always guide your choices and your activities. May the Lord grant you to be messengers of his mercy and consolation, messengers of his tenderness everywhere. I accompany you with my prayer and I cordially impart to you the Blessing, which I willingly extend to those who are hosted in your centers. And please don't forget to pray for me. Thanks!