On Sunday last 15th of June, Pope Francis visited the community of Saint Egidio in Trastevere. He visited also the small church of Saint Egidio where the community started.
The pope was welcomed by what Professor Andrea Riccardi, founder of the community, defined ‘the family of Saint Egidio: the poor, the new Europeans, persons of no fixed abode, disabled people, rom (gipsy people) and hundreds of elderly people.
Pope Francis took a lot of time in greeting the packed crowd (10.000) convened for the occasion.
Later in the church of s. Maria in Trastevere attentively listened to the testimonials of some poor persons belonging to the community: Irma, 90 years old, who shared her life saying that she had arrived to the conclusion that her life was useless, until she committed herself in serving the elderly in a recovery house: “Now, that I’m old, I can understand better the secret of life hidden in those words of Jesus, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20,35). It is a profound truth that explains the reason why some times we are unhappy, only giving to others makes us happy”. Adriana, a disabled woman, spoke of her health condition: “I and other people live some difficulties,… it cannot be hidden. We are weak, but we are not sad or fearful! We have the strength of the Spirit of Jesus”.
Professor Riccardi introduced the meeting speaking of the bond of the community linked to the poor: “We have not renounced to the dream of changing the world, because whoever is friend with poor people means that he or she wants a different kind of world!” He continued explaining the pivotal place of the poor in the Community because “the little ones becoming important, can make history”. Referring to the commitment to reconciliation (among peoples) characterizing St. Egidio’s community he added: “We Christians possess a gentle strength in working for peace” .
In his address Pope Francis stressed the bond between the poor and the members of the Community saying: “I wish you to live what Professor Riccardi said, that between those who help and those who are helped there is no distinction: a tension that slowly is not a tension any longer and becomes an encounter, an embrace. You cannot distinguish who helps and who is the one to be helped. Who is the protagonist? Both, or it is better to say, the embrace”. Then he added: “changing society starts from the poor and the elderly. Jesus said about himself “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone (Mt. 21,42). In some way also the poor are ‘cornerstone’ in building society. Unfortunately, a speculative society has taken off from the poor-making them poorer- the essential things which are work and housing: it is unacceptable! Those who live solidarity do not accept this and work on it. The word solidarity, that many want to cancel from the dictionary, is not a bad word as a certain kind of culture thinks. No! Solidarity is a Christian word!”
At the end of the address the pope encouraged the community “Go ahead on this path: prayer, poor and peace. Walking like this you will help grow compassion in the hearts of many-this is the true revolution, a society of compassion and tenderness. This will help grow, instead of hatred and indifference, true friendship (among peoples)”