Pope's Visit to St Charles Community

Pope's Visit to St Charles Community Photo credit: centro @CeiS_Roma

Pope Pays Surprise Visit to Community Center for Addicts

‘Friday of Mercy’ Visit in Line With Activities for the Jubilee

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Pope Francis continues to practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy in particular ways during the Jubilee.
Today, he made a surprise visit to the Saint Charles Community, near Castel Gandolfo. The center belongs to the Italian Solidarity Center, founded by Father Mario Picchi, and aims to prevent and oppose the social exclusion of persons, with particular attention to drug addicts. There are now 55 recovering addicts there.
Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, commented on the significance of this visit, saying that Pope Francis does not cease to astonish.
The archbishop placed the Pope’s visit to the Saint Charles Community in the context of the Pope’s words to the bishops of Mexico regarding the drug trade, and the need for building communities:
«I am particularly concerned about those many persons who, seduced by the empty power of the world, praise illusions and embrace their macabre symbols to commercialize death in exchange for money which, in the end, ‘moth and rust consume’ and ‘thieves break in and steal’ (Mt 6:19).  I urge you not to underestimate the moral and antisocial challenge which the drug trade represents for Mexican society as a whole, as well as for the Church.»
The Holy Father spoke of the «magnitude of this phenomenon, the complexity of its causes, its immensity and its scope which devours like a metastasis, and the gravity of the violence which divides with its distorted expressions,» saying that pastors can’t hide behind mere denunciations. Instead, leaders of the Church need a «prophetic courage as well as a reliable and qualified pastoral plan.»
The effort must be directed, the Holy Father said, toward gradually helping to build «that fragile network of human relationships without which all of us would be defeated from the outset in the face of such an insidious threat.  Only by starting with families, by drawing close and embracing the fringes of human existence in the ravaged areas of our cities and by seeking the involvement of parish communities, schools, community institutions, political communities and institutions responsible for security, will people finally escape the raging waters that drown so many, either victims of the drug trade or those who stand before God with their hands drenched in blood, though with pockets filled with sordid money and their consciences deadened.»

Read the full text of the Pope’s address to the bishops.

For today’s visit, without any advance notice, Pope Francis presented himself as a surprise at the door of the Saint Charles Community, naturally causing a great stir of excitement.
The Pope spent time with the guests, listening to their stories, and conveying his closeness. He exhorted them not to let themselves be devoured by the “metastasis” of drugs and, embracing them, emphasized how the path begun in community offers a real possibility to begin again to experience a life worthy of being lived.
The Pope thus highlighted the necessity of having constant trust in the strength of Mercy, reflected Archbishop Fisichella, which continues to support our pilgrimage and that, accompanying us also in the coldest hours, makes the warmth of His presence felt and clothes man with his dignity.

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Kathleen Naab

United States

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