Below is a ZENIT translation of Pope Francis’ address when he met with Padre Pio prayer groups, who are in Rome to venerate the saints’ relics, in St. Peter’s Basilica Saturday morning:
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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
I give you my welcome — I see that you are very numerous! – and I thank Monsignor Castoro for the words he addressed to me. I greet you all, who come from several countries and regions, united in great affection and gratitude to Saint Pio of Pietrelcina. You are very grateful to him, because he helped you to discover life’s treasure, which is the love of God, and to experience the beauty of the Lord’s forgiveness and mercy. And this is knowledge that we should learn every day, because it is good: the beauty of the Lord’s forgiveness and mercy.
In fact, we can say that Padre Pio was a servant of mercy. He was so ‘full time,’ practicing sometimes to exhaustion “the apostolate of listening.” Through the ministry of Confession, he became a living caress of the Father, who heals the wounds of sin, reassuring the heart with peace. Saint Pio never tired of receiving persons and of listening to them, spending time and effort to spread the perfume of the Lord. He could do so because he was always attached to the source, slaking his thirst continually from the Crucified Christ, and he thus became a channel of mercy. He carried so many persons and so many sufferings in his heart, uniting everything to the love of Christ who gave Himself “to the end” (John 13:1). He lived the great mystery of pain offered for love. Thus, his little drop became a great river of mercy, which irrigated so many desert hearts and created oases of life in many parts of the world.
I think of the prayer groups, which Saint Pio described as “nurseries of faith, hotbeds of love”; not only meeting centers to be at ease with friends and to be consoled somewhat, but hotbeds of divine love. The prayer groups are this! Prayer, in fact, is a true and proper mission, that brings the fire of love to the whole of humanity. Padre Pio said that prayer is a “force that moves the world.” Prayer is a force that moves the world! But do we believe this? It is so. Try it! It – he added — spreads God’s smile and blessing on all languor and weakness” (2nd International Congress of Prayer Groups, May 5, 1966).
Prayer, therefore, is not a good practice to get some peace of heart; nor is it a devout means to obtain from God what is useful to us. If it were so, it would be moved by a subtle egoism: I pray to be well, as if I took an aspirin. No, it’s not so. I pray to obtain this thing. But this is to do business. It is not so. Prayer is something else, it’s something else. Prayer, instead, is a work of spiritual mercy, which wishes to lead everything to God’s heart. “You take charge, who are a Father.” It should be this way, to say it simply. Prayer is to say: “You take charge, who are Father. Look at us, who are Father.” This is relation with the Father. Prayer is this. It is a gift of faith and of love, an intercession of which there is need as of bread. In a word, it means to entrust: to entrust the Church, to entrust people, to entrust situations to the Father – “I entrust this to you” – so that He takes care of it. Prayer, therefore, as Padre Pio loved to say, is “the best weapon we have, a key that opens God’s heart.” A key that opens God’s heart: it is an easy key. God’s heart is not armoured with many means of security. With prayer, you can open it with an ordinary key, because He has a heart of love, the heart of a Father. It is the greatest strength of the Church which we must never abandon, because the Church bears fruit if, she does as Our Lady and the Apostles did, who were “with one accord devoted to prayer” (Acts 1:14), when they awaited the Holy Spirit – devoted and concordant in prayer. Otherwise, one risks leaning elsewhere: on means, on money, on power; then evangelization vanishes and joy is extinguished and the heart becomes troubled. Do you want to have a troubled heart? [The people: “No!”] Do you want to have a joyful heart? [‘Yes!”] Pray, this is the recipe!
While I thank you for your commitment, I encourage the prayer groups to be “power stations of mercy”: power stations that are always open and active, that with the humble power of prayer provide the light of God to the world and the energy of the love of the Church. Padre Pio, who described himself only as “a poor friar that prays,” wrote that prayer is “ the highest apostolate that a soul can exercise in God’s Church: (Epistolario II, 70). Be always joyful Apostles of Prayer! Prayer does miracles. The apostolate of prayer does miracles.
Besides the prayer groups’ work of spiritual mercy, Saint Pio wanted an extraordinary work of corporal mercy: the “House for the Relief of Suffering,” inaugurated sixty years ago. He wanted it to be not only an excellent hospital, but a “temple of science and prayer.” In fact, “human beings always need something more than technically correct care. They are in need of humanity. They are in need of the attention of the heart” (Benedict XVI, Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, 31). This is so important: to cure the sickness but above all to take care of the sick person. They are two different things, and both are important: to cure the sickness and to take care of the sick person. It can happen that while the wounds of the body are medicated, the wounds of the soul are aggravated, which are slower and often more difficult to heal. The dying also, who sometimes seem unconscious, participate in the prayer made with faith close to them, and they entrust themselves to God, to His mercy. I remember the death of a priest friend. He was an apostle, a man of God. However, he had been in a coma for a long time, for a long time. The doctors said: “We don’t know how he is still able to breathe.” Another priest friend entered, got close to him and spoke to him. He could hear: ”let the Lord take you. Let yourself go. Have confidence, entrust yourself to the Lord.” And with these words, he let himself go in peace. So many people are in need, so many sick need words to be said to them, to be given caresses, to be given the strength to go on in their sickness and to go to meet the Lord. They are in need, there, to be helped to entrust themselves to the Lord. I am so grateful to you and to all those who serve the sick with competence, love and lively faith. Let us ask for the grace to recognize Christ’s presence in sick people and in those who suffer; as Padre Pio repeated, “the sick person is Jesus.” The sick person is Jesus. He is the flesh of Christ.
I also want to address particular good wishes to the faithful of the Archdiocese of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo. Saint John Paul II said; “whoever went to San Giovanni Rotondo to participate in the Mass, to ask for advice or to go to Confession to Padre Pio, saw in him a living image of the suffering and Risen Christ. Shining on Padre Pio’s face was the light of the resurrection (“Homily for the Beatification of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, May 2, 1999: Insegnamenti XXII,1 , 862). May whoever comes to your beautiful land – I would like to go! – be able to find in you also a reflection of the light of Heaven! I thank you and I ask you, please, do not to forget to pray for me. Thank you.
All together we pray, we knock on the door of God’s heart who is Father of mercy: Our Father …
And we are not an orphan Church: we have a Mother. Let us pray to our Mother, let us pray to our Mother. Hail Mary …[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]