VATICAN CITY, FEB. 24, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to members of the “Circolo di San Pietro,” who gave him, as they traditionally do every year, the “Peter’s Pence” collection raised annually in parishes and religious institutes of the Diocese of Rome.
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Dear Members of St. Peter’s Circle!
I am happy to receive you in this meeting which is taking place close to the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, a circumstance that offers you the occasion to manifest the particular fidelity to the Apostolic See that has always distinguished your meritorious Circle. I greet you all with heartfelt cordiality. I greet the General President, Duke Leopold Torlonia, thanking him for the affectionate and devoted words that he has addressed to me, interpreting all your sentiments, and I greet the ecclesiastical Assistant.
We have just begun our Lenten journey and, as I reminded in my recent Message (cf. L’Osservatore Romano, February 8, 2012, p. 8), this liturgical season invites us to reflect on the heart of the Christian life: charity. Lent is a propitious time so that, with the help of the Word of God and of the Sacraments, we are renewed in faith and love, both at the personal as well as the community level. It is a journey marked by prayer and sharing, by silence and fasting, in the hope of living the paschal joy. The Letter to the Hebrews exhorts with these words: “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).
Dear friends, today as yesterday, the testimony of faith touches men’s hearts in a particular way; the New Evangelization, especially in a cosmopolitan city like Rome, requires great openness of spirit and wise availability to all. Well placed in this connection is the network of welfare interventions that you carry out every day in favor of all those who are in need. I am pleased to recall the generous work you do in the kitchens, in the night shelter, in the Family House, in the multi-functional Center, as well as your silent witness, that much more eloquent, however, as you give support to the sick and their relatives in the Fondazione Roma Hospice, not forgetting your missionary commitment in Laos and long-distance adoptions.
We know that the authenticity of our fidelity to the Gospel is also verified on the basis of the care and concrete solicitude that we manifest toward our neighbor, especially toward the weakest and marginalized. Care of the other entails desiring the good for him, under all aspects: physical, moral and spiritual. Even if contemporary culture seems to have lost the sense of good and evil, it is necessary to confirm forcefully that good exists and conquers. Hence responsibility toward one’s neighbor means to wish and to do good to the other, desiring that he open himself to the logic of the good; to be interested in one’s brother means to open one’s eyes to his needs, overcoming the hardness of heart that renders one blind to the sufferings of others. In this way charitable service becomes a privileged form of evangelization, in the light of the teaching of Jesus, who will hold as if done to himself whatever we have done for our brothers, especially the one among them who is little and neglected (cf. Matthew 25:40). We must harmonize our heart with the heart of Christ, so that the loving support given to the other is translated into participation and conscious sharing of his sufferings and hopes, thus rendering visible on one hand the infinite mercy of God toward every man, which shines on the face of Christ, and on the other our faith in Him. The encounter with the other and the opening of our heart to his need are occasions of salvation and blessedness.
Dear members of Saint Peter’s Circle, as every year you have come today to give me the offering for the Pope’s charity, which you collected in the parishes of Rome. It represents a concrete help offered to the Successor of Peter, so that he can respond to the innumerable requests that come to him from all parts of the world, especially from poor countries. My heartfelt thanks for all the activity you carry out generously and with a spirit of sacrifice, which is born from your faith, from your relationship with the Lord cultivated every day. Faith, charity and witness continue to be the guidelines of your apostolate. And, then, how can we not remember your presence during the liturgical celebrations in St. Peter’s Basilica? It turns that much more to your honor, in as much as with it you manifest the constant dedication and devoted fidelity that unite you to the See of the Apostle Peter. May the Lord give you merit and fill your Circle with blessings; may he help each one of you to realize your Christian vocation in the family, in your work and within your Association.
Dear friends, in renewing my appreciation for the service you render the Church, I entrust you, together with your families, to the maternal help of the Virgin Mary Salus Populi Romani and of the Saints your Protectors. On my part, I assure you of my remembrance in prayer for you, for all who work by your side in the different initiatives and for those you meet in your daily apostolate, while I impart to all with affection a special Apostolic Blessing.[Translation by ZENIT]