Vatican City, 21 September 2014 (VIS) – The final stage of Pope Francis' apostolic trip to Albania was the visit to the Bethany Charitable Centre, approximately thirty kilometres from Tirana. The centre, founded by the Italian Antonietta Vitale in 1999, assists numerous disabled people and poor or marginalised children, with the collaboration of a group of lay volunteers.
“In places such as this we are all confirmed in the faith; each one is helped in his or her belief, because we see the faith visibly expressed in practical acts of charity. We see how faith brings light and hope in situations of grave hardship”, remarked Pope Francis in the address he gave in the church in the Centre, dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua. “This faith, working through charity, dislodges the mountains of indifference, of disbelief and of apathy. ... Through humble gestures and simple acts of service to the least among us, the Good News that Jesus is risen and lives among us is proclaimed”.
“This Centre, furthermore, shows that it is possible to live together peacefully and fraternally as people of different ethnicities and followers of various religious confessions. Here differences do not prevent harmony, joy and peace, but rather become opportunities for a greater mutual awareness and understanding. … Each religious community expresses itself through love and not violence, and is never ashamed of showing goodness! The persons who nourish goodness in their heart, find that such goodness leads to a peaceful conscience and to profound joy even in the midst of difficulties and misunderstandings. Even when affronted, goodness is never weak but rather, shows its strength by refusing to take revenge. Goodness is its own reward and draws us closer to God, who is the Supreme Good. … Goodness offers infinitely more than money, which only deludes, because we have been created to receive the love of God and to offer it, not to measure everything in terms of money or power”.
With regard to the volunteers who collaborate in the Centre, the Pope quoted one of the children in the Bethany Centre, who said, “'For fifteen years now they have sacrificed themselves joyfully out of love for Jesus and for us'. This phrase reveals how making a gift of oneself for the love of Jesus gives birth to joy and hope, and it also shows how serving one’s brothers and sisters is transformed into an experience of sharing God’s kingdom. These words … might seem paradoxical to many in our world who are slow to grasp their meaning and who frantically seek the key to existence in earthly riches, possessions and amusements. What these people discover, instead, is estrangement and bewilderment”.
The bishop of Rome emphasised that instead, “the secret to a good life is found in loving and giving oneself for love’s sake. From here comes the strength to 'sacrifice oneself joyfully', and thus the most demanding work is transformed into a source of a greater joy. In this way, there is no longer any fear of making important choices in life, but they are seen for what they are, namely, as the way to personal fulfilment in freedom”.
He concluded, “May your patron, St. Anthony, accompany you along the way. I encourage you to continue faithfully serving the Lord Jesus in the poor and abandoned, and to pray to Him so that the hearts and minds of all may be opened to goodness, to charity shown in works, which is the source of real and authentic joy”.
The Pope greeted the children and disabled persons present upon leaving the church, and then transferred to Mother Teresa airport to depart for Rome. The aircraft carrying the Holy Father landed shortly after 9.30 p.m.