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Monday, June 22, 2015

To the Salesians: remember St. John Bosco's “street children”

Vatican City, 21 June 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father's afternoon in Turin began with a private visit to the Shrine of the Consolata, the most popular basilica in the city, dedicated to Mary the Consoler, protector of the city ever since the twelfth century and invoked during the siege by Franco-Spanish troops in 1706 and during the plague in 1835. The Pope prayed at the altar of the Virgin and Child, the work of Felipe Juvarra, in the company of ten priests from the Cathedral.

From there, he proceeded to the basilica of Our Lady Help of Christians to celebrate with the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in their motherhouse on the bicentenary of the birth of the “apostle of the young”, St. John Bosco. Thousands of young people from Salesian oratories from all over the world awaited the Pope outside the basilica. Upon arrival Pope Francis, accompanied by the Archbishop of Turin, Cesare Nosiglia, left a floral tribute at the main altar, inaugurated in 1868 at the behest of St. John Bosco, and handed the discourse he had prepared to the Major Rector of the Salesians, Fr. Angel Fernandez Artime, after which he made some unscripted remarks to those present. Extensive extracts of the Pope's written discourse are published below.

“I thank the Lord with you for having given the Church this saint, who along with many other saints from the region, is an honour and a blessing for the Church and for society in Turin and Piedmont, for Italy and all the world, in particular for the attention he showed to the young and marginalised poor. Much may be said of Don Bosco. However, I would like to emphasise just three characteristics: his trust in Divine Providence; the vocation of being a priest for the young, especially the poorest; and his loyal and active service to the Church, especially to Peter's Successor”.

“Don Bosco carried out his priestly mission up to his last breath, supported by an unswerving trust in God and in His love, and for this he was able to do great things. This relationship of trust with the Lord is also the substance of consecrated life, so that service to the Gospel and to our brothers does not remain a prisoner of our viewpoints, of the transient realities of this world, but rather a continual surpassing of ourselves, anchoring us in external realities and submerging ourselves in the Lord, our strength and our hope. And this will also be our fruitfulness”.

“The other important aspect of the life of Don Bosco is service to the young. He achieved this with steadfastness and constancy, notwithstanding obstacles and hardships, with the sensibility of a generous heart. … The charism of Don Bosco leads us to be educators of the young, implementing that pedagogy of the faith that may be summarised thus: 'evangelise by educating and educate by evangelising'. To evangelise the young, to educate the young full-time, starting from the most fragile and abandoned, proposing an educational style made of reason, religion and affection, universally appreciated as a 'preventive system'. I encourage you to continue with generosity and trust your many activities in support of the new generations: oratories, youth centres, professional institutes, schools and colleges. But without forgetting what Don Bosco called the 'street children': they are greatly in need of hope, of being formed in the joy of Christian life”.

“Don Bosco was always obedient and faithful the Church and the Pope, following suggestions and pastoral indications. Today the Church turns to you, spiritual sons and daughters of this great Saint, and in a concrete way invites you to reach out, to go out anew to find the children and young people where they are: in the peripheries of the metropolises, in the areas of physical and moral danger, in social contexts where many material things are missing, but where above all there is a lack of love, understanding, tenderness and hope. Go towards them with the overflowing paternity of Don Bosco. The oratory of Don Bosco was born of the encounter with street children and for a certain time he lived an itinerant life in the quarters of Turin. May you be able to announce Jesus' mercy to all, making every place an 'oratory', especially those that seem most impervious; carrying in your hearts Don Bosco's oratory style and looking to ever-broader apostolic horizons. From the solid root that he laid down two hundred years ago in the terrain of the Church and in society, many branches have grown: thirty religious institutions that live the charism to share the mission of carrying the Gospel to the outer reaches of the peripheries. The Lord has blessed this service, inspiring among you, throughout these two centuries, a great number of people whom the Church has proclaimed saints and blesseds. I encourage you to continue on this path, imitating the faith of your predecessors”.

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