Here is a translation of the Pope’s address to those present.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
I greet you all affectionately, especially the sick and disabled persons, accompanied by volunteers, ecclesiastical assistants, directors of sections and the national President, whom I thank for his words. The presence of Cardinal De Giorgi, of the Bishops and of the institutional personalities is a sign of the appreciation that UNITALSI finds in the Church and in civil society.
Your Association has been dedicated for 110 years to sick persons or those in conditions of fragility, with a typically evangelical style. In fact, your work is not welfare or philanthropy, but genuine proclamation of the Gospel of charity; it is ministry of consolation. And this is great: in fact, your work is evangelical; it is the ministry of consolation. I think of the many associates of UNITALSI scattered throughout Italy: you are men and women, mothers and fathers, many young people who, moved by love of Christ and following the example of the Good Samaritan, in face of suffering do not look the other way. And this not turning to look the other way is a virtue: go forward with this virtue! On the contrary, seek to be the look that welcomes, the hand that relieves and supports, word of comfort, embrace of tenderness. Do not be discouraged by the difficulties and exhaustion, but continue to give time, smiles and love to brothers and sisters that are in need. May every sick and fragile person be able to see in your face the face of Jesus; and you also can recognize in the suffering person the flesh of Christ.
The poor, also the poor in health, are a wealth for the Church; and you of UNITALSI, together with so many other ecclesial realities, have received the gift and commitment to gather this wealth, to help to appreciate it, not only for the Church herself but for the whole society.
Today’s cultural and social context is rather inclined to hide physical fragility, to regard it only as a problem, which calls for resignation and pietism or at times to reject persons. UNITALSI is called to be a prophetic sign and to go against this worldly logic, the logic of rejection, helping the suffering to be protagonists in society, in the Church and also in the Association itself. To foster the real insertion of the sick in the Christian community and to awaken in them a strong sense of belonging an inclusive pastoral is necessary in the parishes and associations. It is a question of really appreciating the presence and witness of fragile and suffering persons, not only as recipients of the evangelizing work, but as active subjects of this very apostolic action.
Dear sick brothers and sisters, do not consider yourselves only as objects of solidarity and charity, but feel yourselves fully inserted in your own right in the life and mission of the Church. You have your place, a specific role in the parish and in every ecclesial realm. Your presence, silent but more eloquent than many words, your prayer, the daily offering of your sufferings in union with those of Jesus crucified for the salvation of the world, the patient and even joyful acceptance of your condition, are a spiritual resource, a patrimony for every Christian community. Do not be embarrassed to be a precious treasure of the Church!
The most intense experience UNITALSI lives in the course of the year is the pilgrimage to Marian places, especially Lourdes. Your apostolic style and your spirituality also make reference to the Holy Virgin. Rediscover the most profound reasons! In particular, imitate Mary’s maternity, the maternal care she has for each one of us. In the miracle at the Wedding of Cana, Our Lady turns to the servants and says to them: “Do whatever he tells you,” and Jesus orders the servants to fill the jars with water and the water becomes wine, better than the one served first (cf. John 2:5-10). Mary’s intervention with her Son shows the Mother’s care for men. It is an attentive care to our truest needs: Mary knows what we are in need of! She takes care of us, interceding with Jesus and asking for each one of us the gift of the “new wine,” that is, love, the grace that saves us. She intercedes and prays for us always, especially at the hour of difficulty and weakness, at the hour of distress and loss, above all at the hour of sin. This is why, in the Hail Mary prayer we ask her: “pray for us, sinners.”
Dear brothers and sister, let us entrust ourselves always to the protection of our Heavenly Mother, who consoles and intercedes for us with her Son. May she help us to be, for all those we meet on our way, a reflection of Him who is “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). Thank you.[Translation by ZENIT]