Pope visits homeless project in Rome

 Yesterday morning, the Holy Father visited a shelter run by the diocesan Caritas of Rome at the city's Colle Oppio. Founded in 1983, it was the first project of its kind to be established in Rome. Over the last 23 years it has welcomed thousands of people, both Italians and non-Italians, and distributed more than nine million meals. Accompanied by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general for the diocese, Bishop Ernesto Mandara, auxiliary of Rome for the central area, and Msgr Guerino Di Tora, director of Caritas, the Pope visited the welcome centre, the canteen and a nativity scene built by the Caritas volunteers and residents. He also greeted young people from the "Monti-Esquilino" youth centre, which is based in the same building. At the entrance to the canteen, the Pope paused to bless a plaque commemorating John Paul II's visit there on December 20, 1992. A phrase Pope John Paul used on that occasion - "suffering man concerns us" - is now inscribed on the plaque. Afterwards, in the courtyard attached to the canteen, the Pope met Caritas volunteers and the people who use the shelter. He said: "In this shelter, which can be considered as the symbol of Roman Caritas, it is possible to touch the presence of Christ in our brothers and sisters who are hungry, and in those who give them to eat. Here we can experience how, when we love our fellows, we know God better. In the manger of Bethlehem, He showed Himself to us in the poverty of a helpless newborn child. The Christmas message is simple: God came among us because He loves us. God is love, not a sentimental love but a love that became a total giving of self, even unto the sacrifice on the cross." ' Benedict XVI recalled how the word Bethlehem means "house of bread'. Truly Jesus - the bread from heaven, the living bread - in some way shows Himself every day in this shelter, where the aim is not just to give people to eat, but to serve them without distinction of race, religion or culture." "A call addressed to everyone arises from the manger of Bethlehem, from each nativity scene: Jesus loves us and He teaches us to love. The directors, the volunteers and all those who frequent this shelter can experience the beauty of this love. They can feel the profundity of the joy that it brings, a joy most certainly different from the one proclaimed by publicity and advertising." The Pope concluded by calling upon the Lord "to continue to protect the people who, in Roman Caritas, undertake such precious work in promoting solidarity, both here and elsewhere in the city. May the Holy Spirit animate the hearts of the directors, workers and volunteers that they may serve with ever more committed dedication, drawing inspiration from authentic Christian love, which the saints of charity summarized in the motto: 'the good done well'." After his address, five prayer intentions were read out, followed by the Our Father and the final blessing. The Pope was then given "ID card number one" for accessing Caritas shelters in Rome, an apron of the kind worn by the volunteers, a blanket, and an album with drawings by children living in a shelter for mothers in difficulties. For his part, the Holy Father donated 10,000 blankets and 2,000 overcoats to distribute to the homeless people whom the Caritas volunteers meet every night in the streets of the capital. Source: VIS

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