Benedict XVI's Address at Caritas Shelter

“Man Does Not Only Need to Be Fed Materially”

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 14, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today while visiting the Don Luigi di Liegro shelter run by Caritas in Rome.

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Dear Friends,

I welcomed with joy the invitation to visit this hostel called “Don Luigi Di Liegro,” who was the first director of the diocesan “Caritas” of Rome, which was launched over 30 years ago. From my heart I thank the Vicar Cardinal Agostino Vallini and the administrator delegate of the State Railways, Engineer Mauro Moretti, for the words that they kindly addressed to me. With particular affection I express my gratitude to all of you who frequent this hostel and who through the voice of Mrs. Giovanna Cataldo wanted to offer me a warm greeting, accompanied by the precious gift of the Crucifix of Onna, a luminous sign of hope. I greet Monsignor Giuseppe Merisi, presidente of Italian “Caritas,” Auxiliary Bishop Monsignor Guerino Di Tora, and the director of “Caritas” of Rome, Monsignor Enrico Feroci. I am happy to greet the government officials present, especially the Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation, Honorable Altero Matteoli, whom I thank for his words, the mayor of Rome, Honorable Gianni Alemanno, whom I thank for the active and constant help offered by the Municipality of Rome to the undertakings of the hostel. I greet the volunteers and all those present. Thanks for your welcome!

Some 23 years have already passed since this structure — made possible with the cooperation of the State Railways, that generously made the location available, and the economic support of the Municipality of Rome — began to welcome its first guests. Over the course of the years, along with a place of rest for those who had nowhere to sleep, further services were offered such as the health care clinic and meals, and other donors joined the first ones: ENEL, The Rome Foundation, Eng. Agostini Maggini, The Telecom Foundation and the Ministry for Cultural Goods, who have testified to the power of love to build up. In this way the hostel has become a place where, thanks to the service of many workers and volunteers, Jesus’ words are actualized: “I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me to drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me” (Matthew 25:35-36).

Dear brothers and friends who have found welcome here, know that the Church loves you deeply and will not abandon you, because it recognizes in the countenance of each of you that of Christ. He wanted to identify himself in a very special way with those who find themselves in poverty and indigence. The witness of charity, which in this place finds particular realization, belongs to the mission of the Church together with the proclamation of the Gospel. Man does not only need to be fed materially or helped to overcome moments of difficulty, but also has the necessity of knowing who he is and knowing the truth about himself, about his dignity. As I recalled in the encyclical “Caritas in Veritate,” “without truth, charity becomes sentimentalism. Love becomes an empty shell, to be arbitrarily refilled” (no. 3).

The Church, with its service on behalf of the poor, is therefore charged to proclaim to all the truth about man, who is loved by God, created in his image, redeemed by Christ and called to eternal communion with him. Many people have thus wanted to rediscover, and are rediscovering, their dignity, sometimes lost in tragic events, and recover confidence in themselves and hope in the future. Through deeds, examples and words of those who lend their service here, numerous men and women are able to feel in a tangible way that their lives are protected by the Love that is God, and because of this they have a meaning and an importance (cf. “Spe Salvi,” no. 35). This profound certainty generates in man’s heart a powerful, solid, luminous hope, a hope that gives one the courage to continue on the journey of life despite the failures, difficulties and trials that accompany it. Dear brothers and sisters who work in this place, have before your eyes and your heart Jesus’ example, who for love became our servant and loved us “to the end” (cf. John 13:1), to the cross. So, be joyous witnesses of the infinite charity of God and, imitating the example of the deacon St. Lawrence, consider these friends of yours a treasure more precious than your life.

My visit is taking place during the “European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion,” established by the European Parliament and the European Commission. Coming to this place as Bishop of Rome, the Church, who from the beginning of Christianity presides in charity (cf. St. Ignatius of Antioch, “Letter to the Romans,” 1, 1), I would like to encourage not only Catholics, but every man of good will, especially those who have responsibility in public administration and the different institutions, to commit themselves to the building of a future worthy of man, rediscovering in charity the propulsive force for an authentic development and for the realization of a more just and fraternal society (cf. “Caritas in Veritate,” no. 1). Charity, in fact “is not only the principle of micro-relations: relationships of friendship, family, small groups, but also macro-relations: social, economic and political relations” (ibid., no. 2). To promote a peaceful coexistence that helps men to recognize themselves as members of a single human family it is important that the dimensions of gift and gratuity be rediscovered as constitutive elements of daily living and interpersonal relations. All of that becomes day after day ever more urgent in a world in which the logic of profit and pursuit of one’s own interests seem to prevail instead.

The hostel of “Caritas” constitutes, for the Church of Rome, a precious occasion for education in the values of the Gospel. The experience of volunteering that many are sharing in here is, especially for young people, an authentic school in which one learns to be a builder of the civilization of love, capable of welcoming the other in his uniqueness and difference. In this way the hostel concretely manifests that the Christian community, through its own organizations and without the truth that it proclaims being diminished, usefully collaborates with civil institutions to promote the common good. I trust that the fruitful synergy realized here extends also to other realities of our city, especially in the areas where the consequences of the economic crisis are most felt and the dangers of social exclusion are greatest. In its service to persons in difficulty the Church is wholly moved by the desire to express her faith in that God who is the defender of the poor and who loves every man for what he is and not for that which he possesses or does. The Church lives in history with the awareness that the anxieties and needs of men, of the poor above all and all those who suffer, are also among the disciples of Christ (cf. Vatican II, “Gaudium et Spes,” no. 1) and for this reason, in respect to the responsibilities of the state, it takes care that every human being be guaranteed what he is owed.

Dear brothers and sisters, for Rome the hostel of the diocesan “Caritas” is a place where love is not only a word or a sentiment, but a concrete reality, which allows God’s light to enter into the life of men and the whole civil community. This light helps us to look to tomorrow with hope, certain that in the future too our city will remain faithful to the value of welcome that is so deeply rooted in the history and in the heart of its citizens. May the Virgin Mary, “Salus popoli romani,” accompany you always with her maternal intercession and help each of you to make this place a house where there flourish the same virtues present in the holy house of Nazareth. With these sentiments, I offer from my heart the apostolic blessing, extending it to those who are dear to you and all those who live in this place and give themselves here with generosity.

[Translation by Josep
h G. Trabbic]
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