(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday encouraged Somascan Fathers to continue and further develop their mission to serve the poor and take care of orphans and abandoned youth.
Receiving a group of Somascan Fathers who are holding their General Chapter, the Pope expressed appreciation for the theme chosen for the Chapter: “Let's cross to the other side with our brothers with whom we live and die” and he highlighted their missionary openness.
Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:
Pope Francis recalled the shining example provided by the Somascan Fathers’ founder, St. Girolamo Emiliani, and quoted the words of Pope Benedict XVI in a message to the Order asking them “to take to heart every kind of poverty experienced by our youth: moral, physical, existential poverty; and above all the poverty of love, the root of every serious human problem”.
He pointed out that the ideal at the root of St. Girolamo Emiliani’s mission was to reform the Church through works of charity.
His first project, he said, was to renew his own commitment to faith and the Gospel and then to reach out to the Christian community and to civil society highlighting the plight of the poor and the marginalized and promoting integral human development.
“I encourage you to remain faithful to the original inspiration of your Order and to go out into the world assisting humanity that is wounded and discarded, with evangelically effective choices that arise from the ability to look at the world and humanity through the eyes of Christ” he said.
Underscoring the fact that the care for youth and their human and Christian education is the mark of the charism of Somascans, the Pope lauded their method of education which is centered on the person, on his or her dignity, on the development of intellectual and manual skills.
Pope Francis noted that in the effort to make their service more effective, the Somascan Fathers and Brothers are working on new ways to accomplish their mission.
He encouraged them to be attentive to new and different forms of marginalization in geographical and existential peripheries.
And, he said: “Do not be afraid to ‘leave the old wineskins’ and address the transformation of structures where this would be useful for a more evangelical and consistent service. Structures, he said, in some cases can give false security and hinder the dynamism of charity”.
But he pointed out that at the basis of these processes there must always be the joyful encounter with Christ.
The Pope invited those present to engage with laypeople of the Somascan community in the effort to protect human rights, enforce child protection and the rights of children and adolescents, oppose child labor, prevent exploitation and fight trafficking.
“These are issues that must be addressed through the liberating power of the Gospel and, at the same time, through adequate operational tools and professional skills” he said.
Pope Francis recalled that St. Girolamo Emiliani was a contemporary of Luther and suffered for the tear in the fabric of Christian unity.
He urged the Somascan Fathers to continue to teach catechism and to provide formation to catechists in fidelity to the Sacraments and within the love for the Virgin Mary, but he also encouraged them to support ecumenical dialogue and urged them to continue their collaboration with other ecclesial communities, in particular in Africa and in Asia.
“Dear Brothers, you have the task to go forward with the work inspired by St. Girolamo Emiliani, who was declared patron of orphans and abandoned youth by Pope Pius XI” he said.
“I encourage you, Pope Francis concluded, to carry on your journey following your apostolic zeal, always open to new expressions according to the most urgent needs of the Church and society in different times and places”.