Below is a translation of the Pope’s discourse to Rome’s Community of Sant’Egidio last night in the Trastevere section of Rome:
I come to visit Sant’Egidio Community here in Trastevere, where it was born. Thank you for your warm welcome!
We are gathered here around Christ who, from the height of the mosaic looks at us with tender and profound eyes, together with the Virgin Mary, who puts her arm around us. This ancient Basilica became a place of daily prayer for so many Romans and pilgrims. To pray in the center of the city does not mean to forget the human and urban fringes. It means to listen to and receive the Gospel of love here, to go out to encounter brothers and sisters on the fringes of the cities of the world!
Every church, every community is called to this in the convulsive and at times confused life of the city. Everything begins with prayer. Prayer protects the anonymous man of the city from temptations which can also be ours: action in which everything turns around oneself, indifference, self-pity. Prayer is thefirst work of your Community, and it consists in listening to the Word of God — this bread, the bread that gives us strength, that makes us go ahead – but also in turning our eyes to Him, as in this Basilica:
“Look to Him , and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed,” says the Psalm (36:4). Whoever looks to the Lord sees others. You also learned to see others, in particular, the poorest, and I hope you to live what Professor Riccardi said, that confused among you is the one who helps and the one who is helped. A care that slowly ceases to be care to become encounter, embrace: the one who helps and the one helped are confused. Who is the protagonist? Both of them or, to say it better, the embrace.
Jesus is present in the poor, with whom He identifies. Saint John Chrysostom wrote: “The Lord approaches you in the attitude of an indigent …” (In Matthaeum Homil. LXVI, 3: PG 58, 629). You are and you remain a Community with the poor. I also see among you many elderly. I am happy that you are their friends and neighbors. The treatment of the elderly, as that of children, is an indication to see the quality of a society. When the elderly are discarded, when the elderly are isolated and sometimes spend themselves without affection, it is a bad sign! How good, instead, is that alliance that I see here between young people and the elderly in which all receive and give! The elderly and their prayer are a richness for Sant’ Egidio. A people that does not protect its elderly, that does not look after its young people, is a people without a future, a people without hope. Because young people – children, youngsters – and the elderly take history forward — children, young people with their biological strength, which is right.
The elderly give their memory. However, when a society loses its memory, it is finished, it is finished. It is bad to see a society , a people, a culture that has lost its memory. The ninety-year-old grandmother who spoke – she is good! – told us that there is this recourse to discarding, this culture of discarding. To maintain this balance, where at the center of the global economy man and woman are not, but the idol of money is, it is necessary to discard things. Children are discarded: there are no children. Think only of the quota of growth of children in Europe: in Italy, Spain, France …. And the elderly are discarded, with attitudes behind which there is a hidden euthanasia, a form of euthanasia. They are of no use, and what is of no use is discarded. And today the crisis is so great that young people are discarded: when we think of the 75 million young people 25 years and younger, who are “ne-ne”: no work, no study. They are without it. It is happening today, in this tired Europe, as you said. In this Europe which has become tired; it has not grown old, no, it is tired. It does not know what to do. A friend of mine asked me a question some time ago: why don’t I speak of Europe. I set a trap for him, I said to him: “Did you hear when I spoke of Asia?”, and he realized it was a trap! Today I speak of Europe. Europe is tired. We must help her to rejuvenate, to find her roots. It’s true: she has denied her roots. It’s true, but we must help her to find them again.
Society begins to change from the poor and from the elderly. Jesus says of himself: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner” (Matthew 21:42). The poor are also in some waythe “corner stone” for the construction of society. Today, unfortunately, a speculative economy renders them ever poorer, depriving them of the essentials, as a home and work. It is unacceptable! One who lives solidarity does not accept this and acts. And so many want to remove the word “solidarity” from the dictionary, because to a certain culture it seems a bad word. No! Solidarity is a Christian word! And, therefore, you are family of the homeless, friends of persons with disabilities, who express – if loved – so much humanity. I see here, moreover, many “new Europeans,” migrants gathered after painful and risky trips. The community receives them with solicitude and shows that the foreigner is a brother of ours to know and to help. And this rejuvenates us.
From here, from Santa Maria in Trastevere, I greet all those who participate in your Community in other countries of the world. I also encourage them to be friends of God, of the poor and of peace: whoever lives this way will find blessing in his life and will be a blessing to others. In some countries suffering because of war, you seek to keep alive the hope for peace. To work for peace does not give quick results, but is the work of patient artisans, who seek what unites and put aside what divides, as Saint John XXIII said. More prayer and more dialogue are necessary: this is necessary. The world suffocates without dialogue. But dialogue is only possible beginning from one’s own identity. I cannot feign to have another identity in order to dialogue. No, one cannot dialogue this way. I have this identity, but a dialogue because I am a person, I am a man, I am woman and man and woman have this possibility to dialogue without negotiating their own identity. The world suffocates without dialogue: therefore, you must also make your contribution to promote friendship among the religions.
Go forward on this path: prayer, poor and peace. And walking thus you help to have compassion grow in the heart of society – which is the true revolution – that of compassion and tenderness –, to make friendship grow in place of specters of enmity and indifference.
May the Lord Jesus, who from the height of the mosaic embraces his Most Holy Mother, sustain you everywhere and embrace you all together with her in his mercy. We are in need of it; we are in such need of it. This is the time of mercy. I pray for you, and you pray for me! Thank you.[Translation by ZENIT]