Papal Address at Sant'Egidio's Soup Kitchen

«Whoever Serves and Helps Is at the Same Time Helped and Served»

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 7, 2010 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Dec. 27, the feast of the Holy Family, upon visiting a soup kitchen and education center run by the Catholic lay Community of Sant’Egidio.

The Pope ate lunch with the poor who frequent the center, and handed out gifts to the children there.
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Dear Friends:
For me it is a moving experience to be with you, to be here in the family of Sant’Egidio Community, to be with Jesus’ friends, because Jesus especially loves those who suffer, persons who are in difficulties, and he wishes to relate to them as his brothers and sisters. Thank you for this possibility. I am happy and I thank those who with love and competence have prepared the meal, and I have really been able to prove the efficacy of this kitchen. Best wishes!

Likewise, I thank all those who have served so well, with so much agility that in one hour we have enjoyed a great lunch. Thank you! Best wishes!
I address my cordial greeting to the vice manager, Archbishop Luigi Moretti, and to Bishop Vincenzo Paglia of Terni-Narni-Amelia. I greet affectionately professor Andrea Riccardi, founder of the community, a longtime friend (as are also Bishop Paglia and Bishop Spreafico) and I thank him for the very kind and profound words he addressed to me. In addition to professor Riccardi, I greet the president, Marco Impagliazzo, and the parish priest of St. Mary in Trastevere, Don Matteo Zuppi, ecclesiastical counselor. Finally, I address a special greeting to all the friends of Sant’Egidio and to each one of those present.
During the meal I had the opportunity to get to know a bit about the history of some of you, as reflection of the human situations present here. I have heard painful histories, burdens of humanity, but also the history of a love you have found here, in Sant’Egidio: histories of the elderly, of emigrants, people without a stable home, gypsies, the handicapped, people with economic problems or other difficulties all tested, in one way or another, by life. I am here among you to express to you my closeness and to tell you that I love you and that your persons and trials are not far from my thoughts, but at the center and in the heart of the community of believers, and also in my heart.
Made visible through the loving gestures of those who follow Jesus is the truth according to which «(God) has first loved us and continues to love us first; that is why, we can also correspond with love» («Deus Caritas Est,» 17). Jesus says: «I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me» (Matthew 25:35-36).

And he concludes: «As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me» (40). On hearing these words, how can we not feel to be truly friends of those in whom the Lord recognizes himself? And not only friends, but also relatives. I have come to be among you precisely on the feast of the Holy Family because, in a certain sense, hat family is similar to you. In fact, from his very first steps, Jesus’ family also had to face difficulties: They lived the worry of not finding a place to stay, were forced to emigrate to Egypt because of the violence of King Herod. You know very well what difficulty means, but here you have someone who really loves and helps you; more than that, some of you have found your family here, thanks to the attentive service of Sant’Egidio Community, which offers a sign of God’s love for the poor.
What has been realized here today is what happens at home: Whoever serves and helps is at the same time helped and served, and the one in greatest need has the first place. What comes to my mind is the expression of the Psalm: «Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!» (Psalm 133:1). The commitment to make those who are alone or in a situation of need feel at home, which Sant’Egidio Community carries out in such a praiseworthy way, is born from attentive listening to the Word of God and from prayer. I wish to encourage everyone to persevere in this way of faith.
With these words of St. John Chrysostom I wish to remind each one: «Realize that you become a priest of Christ, giving with your own hand not flesh but bread, not blood but a cup of water» (Homilies on the Gospel of St. Matthew, 42:3). What richness the love of God gives life, which is expressed in the concrete service of needy brethren! When the Roman judges of the time asked St. Lawrence, deacon of the Church of Rome, to hand over the treasures of the Church, he showed the poor of Rome as the real treasure of the Church. We can take up this gesture of St. Lawrence and say that you are the precious treasure of the Church.
To love, to serve, gives the joy of the Lord, who said: «It is more blessed to give than to receive» (Acts 20:35). May each one be, in this time of special economic difficulties, a sign of hope and witness of a new world for those who, shut in their egoism and believing naively that they will be able to be happy on their own, live in sadness or in an ephemeral joy that leaves the heart empty.
A few days have passed since Christmas: God became a child, he came close to us to tell us that he loves us and that he needs our love. I wish all of you affectionately happy feasts and the joy of experiencing increasingly the love of God. I invoke the protection of the Virgin of the Visitation, who teaches us to go «promptly» to help brethren in their needs, and I bless you all affectionately.
 [The Pope gave the following greeting at the end of the visit]

Dear Brothers and Sisters:
After having taken part in the celebratory meal in Sant’Egidio Community’s soup kitchen and after having greeted some of the students of the Community’s School of Language and Culture, I address a cordial greeting to all those of you who were unable to come in, but who participated in this meeting from outside, as I am told, for the past two or three hours. Thank you.
Many persons who are in need from various countries are here to find a word, a help, a light for a better future. Commit yourselves so that no one will be alone, so that no one is marginalized, so that no one is abandoned.
There is a language that, beyond the different languages, unifies everything: that of love. As the Apostle St. Paul says: «If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal» (1 Corinthians 13:1). It is also the language of this school, which we must all learn and practice increasingly. We are taught this by the Child Jesus, God, who out of love became one of us and speaks above all with his presence, with the humility of being a child that makes himself dependent on our love. This language will improve our city and our world.
I bless everyone with affection and gratitude for all that you do here for the poor, with the hope of building the civilization of love. Thank you all. Happy feasts and happy year!
© Copyright 2010 — Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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