By Robin Gomes
“After seeing the wounds of the city in which we live, mercy invites us to have 'imagination' in our hands. This is what you have done in this time of the pandemic,” Pope Francis told members of the “Circolo San Pietro” (St. Peter’s Circle), a charity of the diocese of Rome.
“Having accepted the challenge of responding to a concrete situation, you have been able to adapt your service to the new needs imposed by the virus,” he told members of the group, who brought him their collection for the Pope’s charity fund, “Peter’s Pence”.
“Circolo San Pietro” was founded in Rome in 1869 by a group of young people, encouraged by Blessed Pope Pius IX, who, with foresight and wisdom, entrusted them with ensuring a meal for the poor of Rome.
Fantasy of mercy
In this regard, Pope Francis remembered “a small-big gesture” that the young members of the Circolo made towards their elderly members during the pandemic. They made “a round of phone calls to see if everything was going well and to give them some company.” “This,” the Pope said, “is the fantasy of mercy.”
Unconditional fidelity to the Church and the Roman Pontiff is the hallmark of “Circolo San Pietro”, summarized in its motto, "Prayer, Action, Sacrifice". During last year’s meeting with them, Pope Francis had reflected on prayer.
New needs under pandemic
This time, dwelling on "action," the Pope noted that with the need for social distancing under the pandemic, they needed to rethink concrete ways of undertaking the charitable works they normally carry out for the poor of Rome. Apart from their usual ways of addressing the needs of others, they are now required to respond to “the urgent needs of so many families who have found themselves in financial straits overnight”. And there will be more of this because the effects of the pandemic will be terrible.
Pointing out that an exceptional situation requires “a new, different response,” the Pope said, “It is necessary to have a heart that knows how to 'see' the wounds of society, and creative hands in active charity." “These two elements are important so that a charitable action may always be fruitful.”
New forms of poverty
First of all, the Pope continued, it is urgent to identify the new forms of poverty in the city of Rome, such as material poverty, human poverty and social poverty. He said we need to “see them with the eyes of the heart . . . to look at human wounds with the heart in order to ‘take to heart’ the life of the other." Hence one no longer sees the other just as a “stranger in need of help but, first of all, a brother begging for love." It is “only when we take someone to heart [that] we can respond to this expectation,” the Pope stressed. In fact, he explained, the etymology of the Latin word for mercy, “misericordia”, means “giving the heart to the miserable."
First be touched by God’s mercy
However, the Holy Father pointed out, this is not possible unless “we allow ourselves to be touched in the first person by the power of God's mercy." "The sacrament of Reconciliation is the privileged place for this experience," he said. “In presenting our miseries to the Lord, we are enveloped by the mercy of the Father. And it is this mercy that we are called to live and give.”
While thanking the members of the “Circolo San Pietro” for their contribution to the “Peter’s Pence” fund, Pope Francis encouraged them to continue in their works of charity “with commitment and joy, always attentive and ready to respond boldly to the needs of the poor." He added, “Do not tire of asking this grace from the Holy Spirit in personal and community prayer."