Vatican City, 23 June 2013 (VIS) – At 11:15 this morning in the Hall of Blessings of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father Francis received members of the Association of Sts. Peter and Paul. He thanked them for the charitable activities they undertake and for their collaboration in the smooth operations of the celebrations that take place in the Vatican.
The association came into being at the wish of Paul VI, who in 1970 disbanded various groups of pontifical guards including the Palatine Guard of Honour created by Pius IX in 1850. His intention was to bring together a group of the faithful of Rome who wished to express their unconditional fidelity to the Apostolic See. Former members of the guard were thus invited to join a new group called the Association of Sts. Peter and Paul, the statutes of which were approved by Paul VI in 1971.
The Association is divided into three sections: liturgy, culture, and charity, and has a general secretariat. It undertakes various initiatives with the aim of bearing witness to Christian life, the apostolate, and faithfulness to the Apostolic See.
“I know,” the Pope commented, “that there is a lot of 'behind the scenes' work. I also know that your service of welcoming [pilgrims and tourists] to St. Peter's Basilica, your service for the liturgical celebrations, your apostolate, also extends to cultural and charitable activities. Above all charity, your concrete attention towards others, towards the poorest, weakest, and most needy is the hallmark of the Christian.”
Serving the Church and one's brothers and sisters without asking anything in return, the pontiff said, “is beautiful. Serving without asking anything in exchange, like Jesus. Jesus served us all and never asked for anything in return. Jesus did things freely and you do things freely. Your reward is precisely this: the joy of serving the Lord and of doing it together!” This service is a great Christian virtue of ”magnanimity, having a large heart, always expanding your hearts with patience; expanding it, loving all and not those insignificant things that do us such harm.”
Finally, the Pope blessed those present and asked them to think of everyone they love: “your family and your friends, so that the Blessing may go out to them. But also think of some of those persons you don't like so well, those who do you evil, those you are a little angry with. Think of them too so that the Blessing might also go out to them.”