By Vatican News staff writer
Pope Francis opened his message to Florence's Franciscan Centre for Solidarity on Monday by greeting their President, Maria Eugenia Ralletto. He noted that the Centre has, for many years, been carrying out "a valuable service of listening to and being close to people who find themselves in difficult economic and social conditions". These, continued the Pope, include families facing different hardships and the elderly who need support or companionship.
"First of all, I would like to say 'thank you'", said the Pope. He noted that the Centre is "an effective work of assistance" based on volunteering. "In the eyes of the faith you are amongst those who sow the seeds of the Kingdom of God" in a world that generates so much inequality, he added.
Much like Jesus
He explained that Jesus, too, came into the world proclaiming the Kingdom of the Father and approaching human wounds with compassion. "He came especially close to the poor, to those who were marginalised and discarded, to the disheartened, the abandoned and the oppressed", said the Pope.
The Pope went on to note that in its work, the Centre and those who work in it "are inspired by the luminous witness of St. Francis of Assisi, who practiced universal brotherhood and 'everywhere he sowed peace and walked beside the poor, the abandoned, the sick, the rejected, the last'", he said, quoting his latest encyclical, Fratelli tutti.
Thirty years bearing hope
The Pope noted that for almost thirty years now, the Centre has been following Jesus' example. This, he added, "is a concrete sign of hope and also a sign of contradiction in the busy life of the city, where so many find themselves alone with their poverty and suffering". He added that "it is a sign that awakens slumbering consciences and invites us to come out of indifference, to have compassion for those who are wounded, to bend down with tenderness over those crushed by the weight of life".
Concluding his message, Pope Francis urged the members of the Centre to "go forth courageously in your work!" He then prayed, that the Lord sustain them, "for we know that our good hearts and human strength are not enough.".