In a world that has grown afraid, Pope Francis reflected on the importance of mercy and love, praising the work of the Community of St. Egidio and reminding Christians that they must share the gift that God has given them.
“Christians, by their very vocation, are brothers and sisters to every person, especially the poor, even though a person may be their enemy,” the Pope told a March 11 gathering of the Community of St. Egidio in Rome’s Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere.
“Never say ‘I have nothing to do with this.’ Merciful eyes commit us to living the creative audaciousness of love, and there is so much need of it!” he continued. “We are everyone’s brothers and sisters, and for this reason we are prophets of a new world; and the Church is a sign of the unity of the human race, among nations, families and cultures.”
The St. Egidio Community was founded in 1968 by Andrea Riccardi in a secondary school in Rome. It provides various forms of social outreach to the impoverished, homeless, refugees and immigrants, elderly, disabled, and young people. It is also active in peace efforts. The community also invites people to participate in a deeper life of prayer.
Pope Francis visited the community for its their fiftieth anniversary celebrations. In his remarks, he reflected on the Parable of the Talents, noting that the servant who buried his talent justified his action out of fear.
“This man was unable to invest the talent in the future, because he allowed himself to be counseled by fear,” the Pope said, adding “The world today is often inhabited by fear. It is an ancient disease: the call not to be afraid often recurs in the Bible.”
“Our time experiences great fear as it faces the vast dimensions of globalization. And fear often turns against people who are foreign, different, poor, as if they were enemies,” he said. “So then we defend ourselves from these people, and we believe we are preserving what we have and what we are. The atmosphere of fear can infect also those Christians who hide the gift they have received, like the servant in the parable: they do not invest it in the future, they do not share it with others, they preserve it for themselves.”
“When we are alone, we are easily the victims of fear. But your path directs you to look at the future together: not alone, not by yourselves. Together with the Church,” he told the community.
The state of the world was a focus for the pontiff.
“The future of the world seems uncertain. Look at how many open wars there are!” he said. “I am aware that you pray and work for peace. Let us think of the sorrows of the Syrian people, whose refugees you have welcomed in Europe through the ‘humanitarian corridors’. How is it possible, after the tragedies of the twentieth century, to fall back into the same foolish scheme? But the Word of the Lord is light in the darkness, and it gives hope for peace; it helps us not to be afraid even before the power of evil.”
According to Pope Francis, the St. Egidio movement has greatly benefited from the Second Vatican Council’s impulse to community life and to being the People of God. He said the community is a “daughter of the council.” Their community’s talent consists of “prayer, poor and peace.”
“You joyfully receive it anew today,” Pope Francis added. “You did not wish to make this day a mere celebration of the past, but rather and above all a joyful expression of responsibility for the future.” He said there is a “true revolution” of compassion and tenderness and in cultivating friendship in place of the “spirits of animosity and indifference”
He cited a phrase from the Psalms: “Your word is lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.”
“The Word of God has protected you in the past from the temptations of ideology, and today it delivers you from the intimidation of fear. For this reason I exhort you to love the Bible, and spend increasingly more time with it,” he said. “Everyone shall find in it the source of mercy for the poor, and for those who are wounded by life and war.”
He noted that since the community’s founding, the world’s economy and communications have become globalized and, in a sense, unified.
“But for many people, especially the poor, new walls have been raised. Diversity is an occasion for animosity and conflict; a globalization of solidarity and of the spirit still awaits to be built,” the Pope continued. “The future of the global world is living together: this ideal calls for the commitment to build bridges, to keep dialogue open, to continue and meet with one another.”
This is both an organizational and individual imperative, said the Pope.
“Everyone is called to change his or her heart, acquiring merciful eyes to look at the others, turning into artisans of peace and prophets of mercy,” he said, invoking the parable of the Good Samaritan.
The Samaritan was a foreigner and had no specific responsibilities to the half-dead man on the roadside but “he behaved like a brother, because his eyes were merciful.”
The Pope said the community’s anniversary should be “a time when our faith is challenged to turn into a new audaciousness for the Gospel.”
“Audaciousness is not the courage of a day, it is the patience of a daily mission in the city and in the world,” he said. “A mission to patiently weave together again the human fabric of the peripheries that violence and impoverishment have torn apart; a mission to communicate the Gospel through personal friendship; to show how life truly becomes human when it is lived beside the poor; a mission to create a society that considers no one a foreigner. It is the mission to cross borders and walls, to join together.”
Pope Francis encouraged the community to continue on their path, standing at the side of “the children of the peripheries,” the elderly, and the refugees of war and hunger.
“The poor are your treasure!” he said.
Knowing that they belong to Christ is the Community of St. Egidio’s key to face the future, he said.
“Always belong to Christ in prayer, in caring for his little brothers and sisters, in seeking peace, for he is our peace. He will walk with you, he will protect you and guide you!” the Pope exhorted.
Pope Francis told the community he will pray for them, and asked their prayers in return.