Vatican City, 21 February 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Paul VI Hall the Pope received in audience more than seven thousand people from the Italian diocese of Cassano all'Jonio, in the region of Calabria, which Francis visited last June, and whose church welcomes different rites and traditions that express “the variety of gifts that enrich Christ's Church”.
The Holy Father greeted the representatives of the various associations from the area that are occupied in “welcoming the suffering Christ”, especially those who have problems of substance abuse through support centres and homes, and recalled last year's meeting with the detainees in the Castrovillari prison, with the sick, and the extraordinary presence of the people on the Sibaris plain. “May the Lord help you to be welcoming communities, to accompany toward Christ those who find it difficult to discern his presence that saves”.
“I would like to reaffirm a thought that I suggested to you during my visit: he who loves Jesus, he who listens to Him and welcomes His Word, and he who lives in a sincere way the response to the Lord's call cannot in any way lend himself to the works of evil. Either Jesus, or evil! Jesus did not invite us to dine with demons: he cast them out, because they were evil. It is not possible to declare oneself Christian and then violate the dignity of people; those who belong to the Christian community cannot plan and implement violent acts against others and against the environment. The outward gestures of religiosity, unaccompanied by true and public conversion, are not sufficient to believe oneself in communion with Jesus and with His Church. The external gestures of religiosity are not enough to credit as believers those who, with the wickedness and arrogance typical of miscreants, make illegality their way of living. To those who have chosen the way of evil and who are affiliated to delinquent organisations, I renew my invitation to conversion. Open your heart to the Lord! The Lord awaits you and the Church will welcome you if, just as your decision to serve evil is public, your wish to serve good is clear and public”.
“The beauty of your land is a gift from God and an asset to conserve and to hand down in all its splendour to future generations”, remarked Francis. “Therefore, there is a need for courageous efforts by all, starting with the institutions, to ensure that it is not defaced irreparably by sordid interests”. He went on to list the Emmanuel Community among the places of beauty in the area: an place of “welcome and sharing” where young people whose lives have been devastated by drug abuse can find a “good Samaritan who tends to their wounds and knows how to anoint them with the balsam of closeness and affection”, and noted that it has restored hope to many families. “The Church thanks you for this service”, he said. “Placing yourself by the side of young people and adults who suffer as a result of addiction, you have embraced the suffering Christ and sowed hope”.
“Our time has a great need for hope!”, exclaimed the Holy Father. “The young can no longer be robbed of hope. … The young need hope. It is necessary to offer concrete signs of hope to those who experience pain and suffering. Social organisations and associations, as well as individuals who strive towards acceptance and sharing, are generators of hope. Therefore, I exhort your Christian communities to be agents of solidarity, never to stop before those who, for mere personal interest, sow self-centredness, violence and injustice. Oppose yourselves to the culture of death and be witnesses to the Gospel of life! May the light of God's Word and the support of the Holy Spirit help you to look with new and willing eyes upon the new forms of poverty that drive so many young people and families to desperation”.