By Carmen Elena Villa
ROME, APRIL 26, 2010 (Zenit.org).- A pastor should be close to his flock, tirelessly dedicated to its care, according to Benedict XVI’s vicar for the Diocese of Rome. And, the vicar proposed, newly beatified Father Angelo Paoli fulfilled this mission to the highest degree.
Cardinal Agostino Vallini said this when he presided over the beatification Mass for Father Paoli on Sunday in the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Rome’s cathedral was brimming with faithful from different parishes of this diocese, as well as Carmelite men and women religious on hand for the beatification of a member of their spiritual family.
At the beginning of the ceremony, the postulator of the cause of beatification, Father Giovanni Grosso, read a biography of Father Paoli.
Then, the Pope’s representative, Archbishop Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, proclaimed the formula with which Father Paoli is now inscribed in the book of the beatified.
An image of him as an elderly priest helping the poor was unveiled and the crowd began to applaud effusively.
Angelo Paoli was born in 1642 and entered the seminary at 18. In 1661 he made his solemn vows in the Carmelite Order and six years later was ordained a priest. In time he discovered his particular call to dedicate himself to the poor and the sick.
In his homily, Cardinal Vallini highlighted the priest’s “lofty ideal of pastoral charity” on discovering that “the Lord was calling him to live a special vocation: to be the servant of the poor in the priestly and religious vocation.”
During his ministry, Father Paoli was sent to various Italian cities, including Florence and Siena. His final destination was Rome, where he arrived in 1687. There he served as novice master in the San Martino ai Monti convent. He also carried out intense activity with the poor, prisoners and the sick, especially those in St. John’s Hospital.
“He entered that hospital where he was touched by the afflictions of the sick and their desperate conditions,” Cardinal Vallini reflected. “Having meditated on the passion of Christ in the Holy Places, he then saw it lived and suffered in the flesh of humiliation of the sick.”
Angelo Paoli died in the Eternal City in 1720.
“His reputation for holiness spread in the city, so much so that clerics, religious, laity and nobles joined him, always willing to involve all in what can be called the symphony of love,” the Pope’s vicar reflected.
The cardinal said that, with his example, Father Paoli spent his life in different tasks: “concerned for the concrete good of persons, offering relief to their material and spiritual sorrows, loving, being open to the merciful love of God.”
The vicar of Rome highlighted the virtue of charity, which “was for our Blessed [Angelo] the commitment, the passion, the anxiety of his life; through which he transmitted the love of God and brought others close to God.”
“As always happens in the things of God, there was no lack of misunderstandings, malicious judgments on the part of his own. But he always responded with meekness,” he added.
The cardinal pointed out Blessed Angelo’s “unbreakable attitude of faith in God and benevolence to all.”
“May his light encourage us to live zealously according to the Gospel, and to witness with joy and courage the charity of Christ to all men, especially the poorest,” concluded Cardinal Vallini.
Sources of strength
Benedict XVI also mentioned Blessed Angelo during his address Sunday after praying the midday Regina Caeli in St. Peter’s Square.
“Of Blessed Angelo Paoli, native of Lunigiana who lived between the 17th and 18th centuries, I wish to recall that he was the apostle of charity in Rome, called ‘father of the poor,'” he said.
The Pope pointed out that Father Paoli “dedicated himself especially to the sick of St. John’s Hospital, also taking care of the convalescents.”
And he stressed that he drew strength for his apostolate “from the Eucharist and from devotion to the Virgin of Carmel, as well as from an intense life of penance.”
“In the Year for Priests,” the Holy Father concluded, “I gladly propose his example to all priests, especially those who belong to religious institutes of active life.”