By Francesca Merlo
Greeting members of the French "Lazare" (Lazarus) Association on the occasion of its tenth anniversary, Pope Francis thanked God for their meeting, "which was cancelled last year due to the health crisis".
"It is always a joy to see that even today many people, full of faith, good will, and courage, are committed to living the experience of service and fraternity", he said.
An Association built on simple principles
The Pope noted that their Association "is built on simple principles, such as: 'to be oneself with others, to find joy, to feel loved, to learn benevolence as in a family, to live together very simply'." These principles, he explained, make sense and shape a stable group "only if they flow from a strong friendship with Christ, the source of your work for good". Lazare Association does this, the Pope said: "By going out to meet others in their situations and forming a family in which harmony and the joy of living together reign, you participate in the Church's mission of reaching out to the peripheries of our society".
According to their website, "Lazarus brings together young working adults and homeless persons to share a home, living in community. It meets the housing and social needs of relationship. They live in shared accommodation, usually flats which are single sex, and accommodate six to ten people. This project exists since 2011 in France".
To the young people
"Dear young people", continued the Pope, "you have chosen to put yourselves at the service of human dignity, to make yourselves close to those who are excluded, homeless, rejected, often betrayed in their rights", adding that "by serving them, you serve the Lord Himself".
The Pope noted that these young people have chosen to be, for the people they serve, "the hand, the eyes, the ears, the smile of God".
He urged them to not be afraid to carry the torch of hope and love, and to find the strength to "be witnesses of God's tenderness in the midst of a culture of selfishness, individualism, indifference, discarding, and contempt for the poor and the weak".
To the beneficiaries
Addressing then the "dear friends" who are benefiting from "this initiative of love", the Pope said, "You who live this beautiful adventure with your history, sometimes full of sadness, loneliness, tears, trials, exclusion and rejection, you are a precious gift that makes us see the love of the Lord". He added, "You are not rejects, inferior men and women, failed people, as society sometimes wants us to believe. In God's eyes, you are a treasure, a gift, a life, a dignity. On your faces, we see the suffering face of Christ who invites us to an urgent love and an open heart".
The Pope noted that "having received so much good and attention from others, you in turn become men and women capable of uplifting, consoling, soothing wounds and making God present in the heart of your lives". He then encouraged them to give the best of themselves "in every moment of existence, as a grace, to come out of anonymity and make your lives an offering for the beautiful, for the good".
All are precious and worthy
Bringing his speech to a close, the Pope urged all those present to stay true to their goals: "Today more than ever we need to build a world, a society of fraternal and full of life relationships", because "actions derive from a union that inclines more and more towards the other considering him/her precious, worthy, welcome and beautiful, beyond physical or moral appearances". Pope Francis encouraged them to "Be witnesses, witnesses of God's mercy and goodness".