Pope Francis has reflected holy and illustrious Saint Padre Pio.
The Pontiff did so before today’s General Audience, receiving in the Vatican Basilica participants of the pilgrimage of the Archdiocese of Benevento, led by Archbishop Felice Accrocca, to return the pastoral visit that the Pope made, last March 17, to Pietrelcina, on the occasion of the centenary of the apparition of the permanent stigmata of Saint Pio and the 50th anniversary of his death.
Saint Pio, Francis reminded them, “was distinguished for his firm faith in God, firm hope in the heavenly realities, generous dedication to the people, fidelity to the Church, which he always loved with all her problems and her adversities.”
“He loved the Church, with the many problems that the Church has, with the many adversities, with the many sinners.”
The Pope gave those present this advice: “Following the example of Padre Pio, please, don’t tire of entrusting yourselves to Christ and of proclaiming His goodness and His mercy with the witness of your life.”
“This is also what the men and women of our time expect from the Lord’s disciples — witness.”
At the end of the meeting, the pilgrims followed the General Audience from the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, very close to the Vatican Basilica. Here is a ZENIT translation of the Pope’s greeting to those present at the audience.
* * *
The Holy Father’s Greeting
Good morning! So many of you have come, it seems like a canonization! Thank you so much to the Bishop, to the Mayors, to all; thank you for this courtesy, which certainly indicates fineness of soul, thank you.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I’m happy to receive you and to give each one of you my warm welcome. You have come to Rome with your Pastor, Monsignor Felice Accrocca, to return the visit I had the joy of making to Pietrelcina on March 17 of last year, on the centenary of the apparition of Saint Pio’s permanent stigmata and on the 50th anniversary of his death.
I wish to renew to all my heartfelt gratitude for the warm welcome you gave me in that circumstance. I never forget that day, as I don’t forget the many sick I greeted; that visit has stayed in my heart. May the memory of that event, charged with ecclesial and spiritual meaning, revive in each one the will to reflect further on the life of faith, in the wake of the teachings of your illustrious and holy countryman Padre Pio. He was distinguished for his firm faith in God, firm hope in the heavenly realities, generous dedication to the people, fidelity to the Church, which he always loved with all her problems and her adversities. I shall pause a bit on this. He loved the Church, with the many problems that the Church has, with the many adversities, with the many sinners. Because the Church is holy; she is the Bride of Christ, but we, the children of the Church, are all sinners — and some are big <sinners>! – but he loved the Church as she was; he didn’t destroy her with the tongue, as is fashionable to do now. No! He loved. One who loves the Church is able to forgive, because he knows that he himself is a sinner and is in need of God’s forgiveness. He is able to systematize things, because the Lord wants to systematize things well but always with forgiveness: one can’t live a whole life accusing, accusing, accusing the Church. Whose is the office of accuser? Who is he that the Bible calls the great accuser? The devil! And those that spend their life accusing, accusing, accusing are — I won’t say children, because the devil doesn’t have any — but friends, cousins, relatives of the devil. But no, that’s not right; defects must be pointed out to correct them, but the moment that defects are pointed out, that defects are denounced, the Church <must be> loved. Without love, that’s of the devil. Saint Padre Pio had both things: he loved the Church with all her problems and her adversities, and with the sins of her children. Don’t forget this.
I encourage you to understand and receive ever more the love of God, source and motive of our true joy. We are called to give this love, which changes life, especially to the weakest and neediest persons. By spreading divine charity, each one of us contributes to build a more just and solidary world. On the example of Padre Pio, please, don’t tire of entrusting yourselves to Christ and of proclaiming His goodness and His mercy with the witness of your life. This is also what the men and women of our time expect from the Lord’s disciples — witness. Think of Saint Francis — that your Bishop knows well — what did he say to his disciples? “Go, give witness; live as Christians, witnessing that love is more beautiful than hatred, that friendship is more beautiful than enmity, that fraternity among all of us is more beautiful than war.
Thank you again for this visit! I impart to all of you my heartfelt Blessing, which I extend to your families, to your communities and to the whole Archdiocese of Benevento. Thank you so much![Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]