Vatican City, 6 February 2016 (VIS) – "He was a servant of mercy. He dedicated himself full time to the "apostolate of listening", often to the point of exhaustion. He became, through the ministry of Confession, a living caress of the Father, healing the wounds of sin and enlivening the heart with peace. St. Pio never tired of welcoming people and listening to them, of spending time and energy to spread the perfume of the Lord's forgiveness. He was able to do so because he was always attached to the source: he continually slaked his thirst from the Crucified Jesus and thus became a channel of His mercy", said the Holy Father of St. Pio of Pietrelcina this morning at the Jubilee audience, addressing the Padre Pio Prayer Groups, workers of the Home for the Relief of Suffering private hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, founded by St. Pio, and the faithful of the diocese of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo. Yesterday afternoon a procession brought the relics of St. Pio and St. Leopold Mandic to St. Peter's Basilica, where they will remain until Thursday 11 February.
Francis described prayer as the "true mission", and recalled that the Saint defined the prayer groups as "hothouses of faith and seedbeds of love". "Padre Pio said that prayer is the force that moves the world, that extends God's smile and blessing to every languor and weakness", and explained that prayer is not simply "a good practice for bringing peace to the heart, nor is it a pious way of obtaining what one needs from God". "If it were, it would simply be motivated by a futile selfishness. Prayer, however, is a work of spiritual mercy, that wishes to present everything to the heart of God. It is a gift of faith and love, an intercession that is as necessary as bread. In a word, it means to entrust: to entrust the Church, people and situations to the Father, so that He may take care of them. For this reason prayer, as Padre Pio liked to say, is the best weapon we have; it is a key to God's heart".
The Pope thanked the prayer groups for their commitment and encouraged them to be "centres of mercy". He commented that Padre Pio had wanted the Home for the Relief of Suffering to be not only an excellent hospital, but also a "temple of science and prayer", and recalled the words of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI: "Human beings always need something more than technically proper care. They need humanity. They need heartfelt concern". Curing sickness means, first and foremost, "taking care of the patient. At times, while the wounds of the body are tended to, the wounds of the soul worsen, and these heal more slowly and with greater difficulty", he added. "Even the dying, those who are apparently unconscious, participate in prayer carried out with faith near to them, and they trust in God, in His mercy". Francis concluded with greetings to the archdiocese of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo: "May whoever comes to your beautiful land find in you too a reflection of the light of Heaven".