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Monday, June 22, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 21 JUN 2009 (VIS) - At 5.30 p.m. today, in the church of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, the Holy Father met with priests, religious and young people who had come to San Giovanni Rotondo for his visit.

  Following a brief moment of prayer and adoration in the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, Benedict XVI pronounced some words to those present. Addressing himself in particular to clergy, he recalled the recently-inaugurated Year for Priests dedicated to St. John Mary Vianney. If the holy Cure of Ars, "in tormented and difficult times, sought in every way to make his parishioners rediscover the meaning and beauty of sacramental penance", the Pope said, "then for the holy Friar of Gargano [St. Pio] the care of souls and the conversion of sinners was a yearning that consumed him until his death.

  "How many people changed their lives thanks to his patient priestly ministry!" he added. "How many long hours did he spend in the confessional! ... The Sacrament of Penance must be further enhanced. Priests must never resign themselves to seeing their confessionals deserted, nor limit themselves to noting the disaffection of the faithful for this extraordinary source of serenity and peace".

  Among the teachings that marked Padre Pio's life, the Pope highlighted "the value and necessity of prayer", which he described as "a fundamental point not only for the spirituality of priests but also for that of all Christians, and even more so for yours, dear religious, who have been chosen to follow Christ more closely by practising the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience".

  He went on: "At times we may feel a certain discouragement in the face of the weakening and even abandonment of the faith which we see in our secularised societies. It is certainly important to find new channels to communicate the evangelical truth to the men and women of our time, but since the essential content of Christian announcement always remains the same, it is necessary to return to its original source, to Jesus Christ, Who 'is the same yesterday and today and forever'".

  Finally Benedict XVI turned to address the many young people present. "I am aware of the problems that surround you ... and risk suffocating the enthusiasm that is typical of your youth", he said. "Among these I would like to make particular mention of the phenomenon of unemployment which dramatically affects many young people in southern Italy. Do not lose spirit!! Be young people of 'great heart'. ... The Church does not abandon you; do not abandon the Church! Your contribution is necessary in order to build living Christian communities and societies that are more just and open to hope".

  After the meeting, the Pope descended to the lower church where he made a private visit and inaugurated an exhibition of mosaics. He then travelled by car to the military base of Amendola where he boarded a plane for Rome. From Ciampino airport he then returned to the Vatican by helicopter where he arrived at 8.15 p.m.

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