Tuesday, December 29, 2009

THE POPE AND THE POOR AT SANT' EGIDIO

Here is a snippet from the Vatican (with translation to follow):

Alle ore 13 di oggi, Festa della Santa Famiglia, il Santo Padre Benedetto XVI si √® recato nella mensa di via Dandolo, nel quartiere di Trastevere a Roma, per pranzare con i poveri assistiti dalla Comunit√† di San’Egidio.

Nella sala da pranzo, recitata la preghiera di benedizione, il Papa ha ricevuto il saluto del Prof. Riccardi e si è quindi seduto a tavola con alcuni poveri. Al termine del momento conviviale, prima di offrire la torta agli oltre 150 ospiti, il Santo Padre ha rivolto ai presenti un discorso. I bimbini hanno intonato un inno natalizio e il Papa li ha salutati donando personalmente dei giocattoli a ciascuno di loro.


At 1:00 pm today, the Feast of the Holy Family, the Holy Father Benedict XVI was ushered to dinner at Via Dandolo, in the Trastevere quarter of Rome, to have dinner with some of the poor who are helped by the Community of Sant’ Egidio.

In the dining hall, having recited the blessing, the Pope was greeted by Prof. Riccardi [founder of the Community] and was then seated at table with some of the poor. After a time of relaxation, before offering [Christmas] cake to more than 150 guests, the Holy Father spoke to those present. Children sang a Christmas hymn, and the Pope greeted them, personally giving a toy to each one of them.


This excerpt from the Vatican’s web-site (my translation, so don’t blame the Holy Father) touched me in a special way. In my 3rd year in seminary my apostolic work was with this wonderful community of laypeople, serving supper in this very hall every Friday to over 1,000 folks (a three-course dinner, I might add—so Italian!), and then joining them for Evening Prayers in the Church of Sant’ Egidio, also in Trastevere.

I could go on and on about the love that was shown these homeless people (many of them refugees from the civil war in Ethiopia, many of them Italians, mentally disabled people turned out by clinics and wards and left to the streets). I could expound on the power and simplicity of the Evening Prayer and preaching that went on, linking faith and action—as they must be, to be authentic. My “main man” and brother through this, along with several other ways of sharing prayer and faith, was Liam Cary, now a priest in the Archdiocese of Portland, OR.

All that really matters is the mirroring by Pope Benedict of actions by (Blessed) Pope John XXIII. I especially think of his visits to prisons, including Regina Caeli—at the bottom of the Janiculum hill on which our seminary was built—telling the prisoners, “You could not come to see me, so I came to see you.” And, honestly, it matters to me that I have a personal connection with the place where Pope Benedict extended himself. The man is 82, after all: why would he not want to rest a bit? But to be Pope means, among other things, being Servus servorum Dei—Servant of the servants of God (as Pope Gregory the Great characterized himself in the end of the 6th century).

As we continue to struggle toward, lurch toward, some kind of Christian unity, I pray that this public witness will be the cornerstone of the future ministry of the Bishop of Rome—it is surely a ministry that anyone would be willing to be drawn to.

3 comments:

  1. What a beautiful event. He, Pope Benedict, and others that extend themselves in this way for the poor are truly humble and faithful servants of God. Thanks for sharing!!!

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  2. It is remarkable, but also very Christ-like, for our Pope Benedict to have
    spent a non-rush, personal visit with the have-nots who rely on this Community of Sant' Egidio. But my thoughts also go to the founder of the community, Prof. Riccardi. How hard he must have labored to create this place, organized it, and kept it going for so many years. He,too, is a magnificant servant of God.

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  3. The leaders and members of Communita di Sant'Egidio, when I knew them in 1990, were all outstanding Christian spirits and servants of "God-with-us in the poor." I was so deeply inspired by their humble and strong love.

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