Be Good Neighbors, Pope Says on Trip to Prato, Italy

And Says We Must Fight Pessimism and Work Toward Justice

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The Pope today in Prato, Italy, called people to get past discouragement and find a way to become a neighbor to those around us, imitating Jesus who became one of us. “No neighbor can be distant for a disciple of Jesus,” he said.

The Pope stopped in Prato on his way to the national congress of the Church in Italy, in Florence. The one-day, two-city trip was carried out as a pilgrimage, Francis said, remarking that even though he was just “passing through,” and wouldn’t spend much time in Prato, “at least there is the will.”

Prato is the home of the Holy Sash of Our Lady, and the Pope said that the city’s residents are fortunate to be in Our Lady’s care. “You are in good hands! They are maternal hands that always protect, [that are] open to receive.”

The Bishop of Rome went on to offer thoughts on themes he’s indicated as important points for his pontificate: the need to accompany others, opposing the “throwaway” culture of indifference, and the importance of truth to establish justice.

Open to others 

God exhorts us “not to remain closed in indifference, but to open ourselves; to feel that we are, all of us, called and ready to leave something to reach someone, with whom to share the joy of having encountered the Lord and also the effort to walk on the way,” the Pope said. 

Getting close to others means being ready to take risks, he continued, “but there is no faith without risk.”

“A faith that thinks of itself and is closed at home is not faithful to the invitation of the Lord, who calls his own to take the initiative and involve themselves without fear.”

Jesus “asks the Church His Bride to walk on the rough ways of today, to accompany one who has lost the way; to plant tents of hope, in which to receive one who is wounded and no longer expects anything from life,” he said.

“The Lord asks this of us,” the Pope continued, and sets the example himself.

“We were served by God who made Himself our neighbor, so that we, in turn, would serve one who is close to us. No neighbor can be distant for a disciple of Jesus.”

Cancer of corruption

Turning then to the theme of truth and transparency, the Pope said that “to seek and choose truth is not always easy; however, it is a vital decision, which must mark profoundly each one’s existence and also that of society, so that it is more just, so that it is more honest.”

In this context, he spoke of seven Chinese citizens who died last year in Prato in a fire. 

“They lived and slept inside the industrial shed itself in which they worked: a small dormitory was made in an area with cardboard and … with bunk beds to take advantage of the height of the structure. It is a tragedy of exploitation and of inhuman conditions of life. And this is not fitting work!”

Pope Francis said that the “cancer of corruption” must be battled, “the cancer of human labor exploitation and the poison of illegality.”

“Within ourselves and together with others, let us never tire of fighting for truth and justice,” he said.

And “never yield to pessimism and to resignation.”

“Mary is she who with prayer and with love, in active silence, transformed the Saturday of disappointment into the dawn of the Resurrection. If anyone feels exhausted and oppressed by the circumstances of life, count on our Mother, who is close and consoles because she is Mother! She always heartens us and invites us to put our trust again in God. Her Son will not betray our expectations and He will sow in our hearts a hope that does not disappoint.”

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Kathleen Naab

United States

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