(Vatican Radio) “Beginning the pilgrimmage this year with the Eucharistic celebration in the Basilica of Saint Peter, presided at by His Eminence Cardinal Angelo Comastri, should be for all of you the occasion of desiring to respond ever more generously to the needs of the little ones, the sick, and those who have hearts broken by moral and physical illnesses.”
That was the message of Pope Francis in a letter sent to representatives of the Rome-Lazio section of UNITALSI (Unione Nazionale Italiana Trasporto Ammalati a Lourdes e Santuari Internazionali) on the occasion of the pilgrimage to Loretto of the whole UNITALSI family for the 80th anniversary of the first pilgrimage to the Marian sanctuary.
UNITALSI is an Italian organization that accompanies the sick and the disabled on pilgrimages to Lourdes and to other international Marian sanctuaries. In 2013, UNITALSI celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding.
Pope Francis noted that, in the 80 years since the UNITALSIs first pilgrimage to Loretto, the group has accompanied thousands of people entrusted to their care and their Christian testimony – which, the Pope said, must always base itself “on the model of the Holy Family of Nazareth, in reciprocal care and tenderness and mercy.”
The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Father said to the group, “who, in the Sanctuary of Loretto has always welcomed everyone, but above all so many people who live with difficulties of every kind, helps you so that all can find in you companions by the way to accompany, discern, and integrate every weakness, and to restore confidence and hope, as a beacon of light at a port, or a torch borne in the midst of the people to illuminate those who have lost the path and found themselves in the midst of the tempest. Your service,” he continued, “in our own times, should always become more like a field hospital.”