VATICAN CITY, 24 JUN 2010 (VIS) - Benedict XVI today visited the Don Orione Centre located in Rome's Monte Mario district to bless a statue of the Virgin "Salus populi romani". The statue, which looks out over the city, has recently been restored and replaced on its tower.
The great statue of Our Lady, nine metres high and made of gilded copper, fell from its nineteen-metre-high pedestal in a storm on 12 October last year. The fall of the statue elicited a great swell of affection and devotion on the part of the authorities and people of the capital, who requested to see it back in place as soon as possible.
Benedict XVI himself, in a message sent to the superior general of the Orionine Fathers, expressed the hope "that the statue be replaced as soon as possible for the devotion of all Romans".
The Pope arrived at the Don Orione Centre at 10.30 a.m. where he was greeted by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, his vicar general for the diocese of Rome, by other bishops present and by Mayor Gianni Alemanno. He then pronounced a brief address.
"This statue", he said, "stands to remind us of dramatic and providential events written in the history and conscience of the city. It was, in fact, raised on Monte Mario in 1953 to fulfil a popular vow pronounced during World War II when hostility and arms made people fear for the fate of the city of Rome.
"The 'Work' of Don Orione in Rome", he added, "launched an initiative to collect signatures for a vow to the Blessed Virgin, and more than one million citizens participated. Venerable Pius XII then adopted the devout initiative of the people who wished to entrust themselves to Mary and the vow was pronounced on 4 June 1944 before the image of Our Lady of Divine Love. On that very day Rome was peacefully liberated".
"In their vow to the Virgin, apart from promising prayer and devotion, Romans also undertook to perform works of charity", said the Holy Father, going on to recall Don Orione's motto: "Only charity will save the world".
Don Orione, founder of the Little Work of Divine Providence, "coherently and passionately lived the Church's duty to put love into practice, to bring the light of God into the world. He left this mission to his disciples as a spiritual and apostolic path, in the conviction that 'charity opens people's eyes to faith and warms their hearts with love for God", the Holy Father said.
"Dear Sons of Divine Providence", he concluded, "continue along this charismatic journey which Don Orione began because, as he said, 'charity is the best apologist for the Catholic faith', and 'charity impels, charity moves, it brings people to faith and to hope'. Works of charity, both as individual acts and as services to the disadvantaged provided by large institutions, can never be reduced to a mere philanthropic gesture, but must remain a tangible expression of the providential love of God".
BXVI-VISIT/ VIS 20100624 (510)