Rome, 11 September 2013 – Father Giovanni La Manna, JRS Italy Director, delivered this speech to Pope Francis at Chiesa del Gesu, on 10 September 2013 during the Holy Father’s visit to Centro Astalli (the Jesuit Refugee Service in Italy).
Dear Pope Francis,
Your presence here with us is a great source of joy; it is a concrete sign of the love of God for the poorest of the poor and a source of consolation, of hope. As the Gospel reminds us: “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted, Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.
God gave Pope Francis to His Church who immediately spoke to our hearts with compassion, hope, courage, asking us to be poor for the poor and to be witnesses.
His testimony and his words confirm his desire to serve refugees, people of every age and nationality, forced to flee war and persecution, imprisonment and torture. As you can see with your own eyes today, refugees are frequently young men and women, children and families.
Your testimony and your presence here reminds us of the importance of being open to encounter those who have already paid the highest price, forced to leave everything behind and face a journey which many do not survive. Your highly significant visit to Lampedusa a reminded us that many people have lost their lives at sea because of indifference. We should all carry the death of these people on our consciences; this would help us live with open eyes and awakened consciences.
Pope Francis, the entire Centro Astalli family – Jesuits, lay staff and volunteers – strive to welcome refugees and care about establishing relationships with them. Welcoming refugees opens us to dialogue with people of other cultures and religions and allows us to share the hope of those fortunate enough to reach Italy to live in peace.
We thank God that throughout the years we have maintained our tradition of learning from the poorest of the poor which has offered us the opportunity to grow humanly and spiritually. Refugees teach us day after day the significance of faith and hope, the only possessions with which they arrive.
Pope Francis, each of us experience the limits of our own humanity every day in the encounters with refugees in difficult situations. This makes us feel we are in crisis, but simultaneously keeps us alive, stirring our imaginations to seek new ways of responding to the many needs and difficulties faced by those we welcome. Increasing poverty assumes new connotations; the crisis that we live in is above all cultural and human, more than economic.
Pope Francis, in your blessing and prayer we entrust our wish to remain faithful to our vocation with joy and courage. In you, we entrust to God the desire to recognise the face of Christ in our brothers and sisters. We desire to live with courage to challenge a world that is still too unjust, where resources are not lacking but are unfairly distributed. We try to serve so as to feel part of a single community, where no one remains alone or excluded from the possibility of a worthy and just life.
We believe in the Gospel and we know that limited resources can be overcome if we are able to share what we are and what we have, wherever we are, trusting in providence.
Pope Francis, we find great happiness in your presence, we pray for you, we entrust in the Virgin and in the intercession of St Francis and St Ignatius and we count on your paternal blessing, above all for the refugees present here and also for all others displaced throughout the world.