Benedict XVI's Address at Don Orione Center

«Works of Charity … Can Never Be Reduced to a Philanthropic Gesture»

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ROME, JUNE 24, 2010 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during his visit to the Don Orione Center in Rome’s Monte Mario district, where he blessed a 29-foot tall restored statue of the Virgin Mary.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the first place, I would like to cordially greet you all, gathered here for today’s significant event. On this hill, the majestic statute of the Virgin, knocked down a few months ago by the fury of the wind, again watches over our city. First of all I greet the vicar, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, and the bishops present. A special thought goes to Father Flavio Peloso, re-elected to lead the Opera Don Orione, and I thank him for the kind words he addressed to me. I extend this greeting to the religious participating in the 13th General Chapter, to those who work in this institution at the service of young people and those who suffer, and of the whole spiritual Orionine family. My deferent thought goes to the mayor of Rome, the Honorable Gianni Alemanno: I wish to express to him in anticipation my appreciation for the concert that the Campidoglio will offer me on the afternoon of June 29; it is a gesture that attests to the affection for the Pope of the whole city of Rome. I greet, moreover, all the other civil and military authorities. Finally, I cannot but thank from my heart all those who in different ways have contributed to restore the statue of Our Lady to its original splendor.

I was happy to accept the invitation to join you in rendering homage to Mary, «Salus Populi Romani,» represented in this wonderful statue, so loved by the Roman people. A statue that brings back memories of tragic and providential events, written in the history and conscience of the city. In fact, it was placed on the top of Monte Mario in 1953, in fulfillment of a popular vow pronounced during World War II, when hostilities and arms made one fear for Rome’s fate. From Don Orione’s Roman works stemmed, then, the initiative to collect signatures for a vow, to which more than one million citizens adhered. The Venerable Pius XII took up the people’s devout initiative that entrusted itself to Mary and the vow was pronounced on June 4, 1944, before the image of Our Lady of Divine Love. Precisely that day, the peaceful liberation of Rome took place. How can we not renew also today, dear friends of Rome, that gesture of devotion to Mary «Salus Populi Romani» by blessing this beautiful statue?

The Orionines wanted it to be large and to be placed high above the city, to render homage to the exalted holiness of the Mother of God, who, humble on earth, «was exalted above the angelic choirs in the celestial kingdom» (Gregory VII, Ad Adelaide di Ungheria), and to have, at the same time, a sign of her familiar presence in daily life. May Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, be always at the summit of your thoughts and affection, kind consolation of your souls, sure guide of your desires and support of your steps, persuasive inspirer of the imitation of Jesus Christ. May the Madonnina — as the Romans like to call her — in the gesture of looking from on high at the places of family, civil and religious life in Rome, protect families, inspire good resolutions, suggest to all the desire for heaven. «To look at heaven, to pray and then to go forward with courage and work! Ave Maria, and forward!» — exhorted Saint Louis Orione.

In their vow to the Virgin, in addition to promising prayer and devotion, Romans also committed themselves to works of charity. For their part, the Orionines were involved in this Center of Monte Mario, even before the statue, in the reception of little ones who were mutilated and orphans. St. Louis Orione’s program — charity alone will save the world — had a significant realization here and became a sign of hope for Rome, in union with the Madonnina placed on the top of the hill. Dear Brothers and Sisters, spiritual heirs of the saint of charity, Louis Orione! The General Chapter that has just ended had as its theme this expression loved by your founder: Charity alone will save the world. I bless the objective and the decisions that have been adopted to re-launch the spiritual and apostolic dynamism that must always distinguish you.

Don Orione lived in a lucid and passionate way the Church’s task to live love in order to make the light of God enter the world (cf. Deus Caritas Est, n. 39). He left this mission to his disciples as the spiritual and apostolic way, convinced that «charity opens the eyes to faith and makes hearts burn with love of God.» Continue, dear Sons of Divine Providence, on this charismatic trail initiated by him because, as he said, «charity is the best defense of the Catholic faith,» «charity draws, charity moves, it leads to faith and to hope» (Verbali, 26.11.1930, p. 95). Works of charity, both as personal acts or as services to frail persons offered in great institutions, can never be reduced to a philanthropic gesture, but must always be a tangible expression of the provident love of God. To do this — Don Orione reminds — it is necessary to be «mixed with the most gentle charity of Our Lord» (Scritti 70, 231) through an authentic and holy spiritual life. Only in this way is it possible to move from works of charity to the charity of works, because — your founder adds — «actually, works without the charity of God, that gives them value before Him, are worthless» (Alle PSMC, 19.6.1920, p. 141).

Dear Brothers and Sisters, thank you once again for your invitation and your hospitality. May the maternal protection of Mary accompany you every day, whom we invoke together for all those who work in this center and for the whole Roman population and, while I assure each one of my remembrance in prayer, I bless you all with affection.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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