Vatican News
Pope addressing pilgrims from Italy's Benevento Diocese in St. Peter's Basilica on Feb. 20, 2019. Pope addressing pilgrims from Italy's Benevento Diocese in St. Peter's Basilica on Feb. 20, 2019.  (Vatican Media)

Pope’s special audience to pilgrims from Benevento

Pilgrims from the Italian Archdiocese of Benevento paid a visit to Pope Francis in response to his visit to the shrine of popular Italian saint, Padre Pio, at Pietrelcina on March 17, 2018.

Vatican News

Before his regular general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall, he granted a special audience to some 2,500 pilgrims from the Italian Archdiocese of Benevento in St. Peter’s Basilica.  The pilgrims paid the Pope a courtesy visit for his visit to the birthplace of St. Pio, popularly known as Padre Pio, at Pietrelcina last year on March 17.   

Please find below a working translation of the Pope’s discourse to the pilgrims from Benevento:

Good morning!

You've come in such large numbers that it seems like a canonization ! Thank you very much to the bishop, the mayors, to all, thank you for this courtesy visit which certainly indicates the fineness of the soul, thank you!

Dear brothers and sisters,

I am happy to welcome you and to offer each one of you my cordial welcome. You have come to Rome, with your Pastor, Bishop Felice Accrocca, to return the visit I had the joy of making to Pietrelcina on 17 March last year, on the centenary of the appearance of the permanent stigmata of St. Pio and of the 50th anniversary of his death.

I wish to renew my heartfelt thanks to all of you for the warm welcome you gave me on that occasion. I’ll never forget that day, just as I’ll never forget so many sick people whom I greeted that the visit has remained in my heart. The memory of that event full of ecclesial and spiritual significance, enlivens in each one the desire to deepen the life of faith, in the wake of the teachings of your illustrious and holy fellow countryman Padre Pio. He distinguished himself by his firm faith in God, his firm hope in heavenly realities, his generous dedication to the people and his fidelity to the Church which he always loved with all its problems and adversities.

I would like to stop a little on this. He loved the Church with the many problems that the Church has, with so many adversities, with so many sinners.  Because the Church is holy, she is the bride of Christ, but we, the children of the Church, are all sinners - some big ones - but he loved the Church as it was, he didn't destroy it with his tongue, as it's fashionable to do now. No, no! Love. The one who loves the Church knows how to forgive, because he knows that he himself is a sinner and needs God's forgiveness.  He knows how to fix things because the Lord wants to fix things well but always with forgiveness.  One cannot live a whole life accusing, accusing, accusing the Church.

Whom does the office of the accuser belong to?  Who is he that the Bible calls the great accuser - the devil!   And those who spend their lives accusing are - I won't say children , because the devil doesn't have any - but they the friends, cousins and relatives of the devil.

Well, when things are not right, one has to report the defects to correct, but when you report the defects, you make known the defects, you love the Church.  Without love is something from the devil. St. Pio had both - he loved the Church with all its problems and adversities, with the sins of her children. Please don’t forget this.

I encourage you to understand and welcome ever more the love of God, the source and motive of our true joy. We are called to give this life-changing love, especially to the weakest and the neediest. By spreading divine charity, each one of us contributes to building a more just and supportive world. Following the example of Padre Pio, please never tire entrusting yourselves to Christ and proclaiming His goodness and mercy through the witness of your lives.  This is what men and women also in our time expect from the disciples of the Lord – witness.   Think of St. Francis whom your bishop knows well what he said to his disciples - go bear witness.    Words are not necessary, though sometimes one has to speak, but start with witness .   Live as Christians, witnessing that love is more beautiful than hatred, friendship is more beautiful than enmity and brotherhood among us is more beautiful than war.

Thank you once more for this visit! From my heart I impart to all my Blessing, which I extend to your families, to your communities and to the entire archdiocese of Benevento. Thank you so much!

20 February 2019, 11:01