Pope Francis' Address to Pilgrims from the Diocese of Cassano All'Jonio

«Either Jesus or evil! One cannot call oneself a Christian and violate persons dignity.»

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On Saturday, Pope Francis received the participants pilgrims the diocese of Cassano all’Jonio at the Paul VI audience hall. The following is a translation of the Holy Father’s address to those present at the Audience.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

First of all I greet you, the faithful of the diocese of Cassano all’Jonio, accompanied by your Pastor, Bishop Nunzio Galantino, whom I thank for the words he addressed to me. And I thank you for having allowed him in these last years at the disposition of the Episcopal Conference. Thank you so much! My heartfelt thank you. But, poor man, during this year he came and went, came and went. I think it is the moment to think of giving you another Pastor …. [the pilgrims answered: “No!”] But perhaps you will have a large statue made of him, you will remember him …. I also greet the other Bishops present, among whom is also the Eparch of Lungro: in fact, the Church in Calabria welcomes different traditions and rites, which express the variety of gifts that enrich the Church of Christ.

I greet the representatives of the Emmanuel Community, born from the desire to “put life with life” with all who knock on its door. And I thank you for the words that you [Father Mario Marafioti] addressed to me, and I encourage your commitment in receiving the “suffering Christ.” This hospitality is the fruit of a style of apostolate founded on fervent prayer and on intense community life. From here have flowed the Centers of Hospitality and Listening, the family-houses in Italy and abroad, and the Associations, among which I greet the Emmanuel Volunteers of Cerignola.

The memory of the visit to your diocesan community is still alive in my heart: the meetings with the imprisoned, with the sick, with the priests, the Religious  and the seminarinas …how many seminarians are there now? [“Eight”] Eight? This is not on. We must pray for more vocations. Right? Right! The Lord has asked us to pray to Him to send priests. I trust in your prayer: knock on Jesus’ heart, that he may send priests. I also remember the meeting with the elderly; the visit to the Cathedral and to the Seminary; and then the extraordinary presence of the people in the Sibari plain: the whole of Calabria was there!  I touched with my hand your faith and your charity. May the Lord help you to walk always united, in the parishes and in the associations, led by the Bishop and the priests. May He help you to be a welcoming community, to accompany all those to Christ who find it hard to discern his saving presence.

I would like to reaffirm a thought that I suggested to you during my visit: one who loves Jesus, who listens to and accept the Word and lives sincerely the answer to the Lord’s call cannot in any way give himself to evil works. Either Jesus or evil! Jesus did not invite demons to lunch: he chased them away, because they were evil. Either Jesus or evil! One cannot call oneself a Christian and violate persons’ dignity. Those who belong to the Christian community cannot plan and carry out violent gestures against others and against the environment. External gestures of religiosity, unaccompanied by true and public conversion, are not enough to consider oneself in communion with Christ and with his Church. External gestures of religiosity are not enough to accredit as believers all those that, with the wickedness and arrogance typical of the underworld make illegality their style of life. To all those who have chosen the way of evil and are affiliated to underworld organizations I renew the urgent invitation to conversion. Open your heart to the Lord. The Lord awaits you and the Church welcomes you; just as your choice to serve evil was public, so your will to serve the good will be clear and public.

Dear brothers and sisters of Cassano, the beauty of your land is a gift of God and a patrimony to conserve and hand down in all its splendor to future generations. Therefore, there must be a courageous commitment by all, beginning with the institutions, so that it is not scarred in an irreparable way by narrow interests.  Among the “Beauties” of your land is the Emmanuel Community, example of hospitality and sharing with the weakest. Young people devastated by drugs have found in you and in your structures the “Good Samaritan” that was able bend down over their wounds and anoint them with the balm of closeness and affection. How many families have found in you the necessary help to hope again for the future of their children! The Church is grateful to you for this service. By putting yourselves at the side of young people and adults subject to dependencies, you have embraced the suffering Jesus and have sowed hope.

Our time is in great need of hope! Young people cannot be impeded from hoping. Young people need to hope! It is necessary to offer concrete signs of hope to all those who live the experience of pain and suffering. The social and associative realities, as well as individuals who do their utmost in hospitality and sharing, are generators of hope. Therefore I exhort your Christian communities to be protagonists of solidarity, not to close themselves in face of one who, out of mere personal interest, sows egoism, violence and injustice. Oppose the culture of death and be witnesses of the Gospel of life! May the light of the Word of God and the support of the Holy Spirit help you to look with new and available eyes at the many new forms of poverty that plunge so many young people and families into despair.

I invoke upon all of you here present and on the entire diocese of Cassano all’Jonio the protection of Mary Most Holy, whom you venerate with the title of Our Lady of the Chain and Our Lady of the Castle. May my Blessing also accompany you. Please, do not forget to pray for me

And now, all together, we turn to our Lady and pray to her: Hail Mary …

Thank you so much for your visit. I bless you!

[Blessing] [Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]
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