Vatican City, 20 December 2014 (VIS) – Today in the Paul VI Hall the Holy Father received 7,500 members of the Community of John Paul XXIII, founded by the Italian priest Oreste Benzi in 1968. The association, currently present in 34 countries, is concerned with situations of marginalisation and poverty and promotes the non-violent removal of the root causes. It follows the principle of sharing of life in a number of contexts: minors and young people in difficult conditions, the disabled, detainees, itinerant communities, drug users, alcoholics, those without fixed abode, the elderly, the sick, mothers with problems and women forced into prostitution.
During the audience, various members of the Community narrated to the Pope their experiences, which as Francis said, spoke of “slavery and liberation, of the selfishness of those who imagine they can build up their lives by exploiting others and taking advantage of the generosity of those who help others to rise up from material and moral degradation. They are experiences that shed light on the many forms of poverty that unfortunately afflict our world, and they reveal the most dangerous misery of all, the cause of all others: distance from God, the presumption of being able to do without Him. This is the blind misery of those who believe that the aim of their existence is material wealth, the pursuit of power and pleasure, and the enslavement of the lives of others to these objectives”.
“Yes, my friends, it is the presence of the Lord that makes the difference between the freedom of good and the slavery of evil … it broadens horizons … and gives us the strength necessary to overcome difficulties and obstacles. … Faith, indeed, moves the mountains of indifference and apathy, of disinterest and sterile self-centredness. … Faith opens the doors of charity … giving us the courage to act according to the example of the Good Samaritan. Fr. Oresti Benzi, the founder of your association, understood this well. His love for the least and for the poor, for the excluded and the abandoned, was rooted in his love for Jesus crucified, Who made Himself poor for us. … From the mission of involving adolescents and encouraging their interest in the figure of Jesus, there was born the idea of organising for them a vital and radical encounter with Him as a hero and friend, through testimonies of life, fully demonstrating the Christian message, but in a joyful or even joking fashion”.
“In this way your community was born, now present in 34 countries with its family-houses, its social and educational cooperatives, its houses of prayer, services for accompanying difficult motherhood and other initiatives”, continued the Pope. “Providence has enabled you to grow, demonstrating the vitality of the charism of your Founder, who liked to say that “to get onto your feet, you need to kneel first”.
Pope Francis concluded by inviting those present to be attentive to their spiritual formation, and to partake frequently of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, as “it fills the heart with the love for God that is the wellspring of charity towards our brothers and sisters”.