Pope: Field hospitals need warm presence more than tents
By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis on Saturday commended Italy’s National Alpine Association (ANA) as “a fine Gospel of fraternity and service”, saying its members are “experts in field hospitals” who are close to the suffering and needy. The Pope’s made the remarks to a delegation of 150 ANA representatives whom he received in the Vatican on the occasion of 150 years of the Alpine Corps, the Italian Army's specialist mountain infantry.
The ANA instead is a non-partisan association founded in 1919 that perpetuates the values of the Alpine Corps. Its members are active soldiers, former alpine soldiers as well as others, including in other countries, who share the vision of fraternity and service of the Alpine troops.
Pope Francis said that for over a century ANA has been a family that has made its diversity of individuals and variety of grouping an opportunity to increase fraternity. Particularly commending their sense of altruism, he said they are not for themselves “but for others and with others”.
“Today, in the suffocating climate of individualism that makes many indifferent,” he said, “there is a need to start again from here, to rediscover the enthusiasm of caring for others.” Their fraternity nourished through service to others, voluntary work and commitment in emergencies is especially aimed at people in distress and need, so that they do not feel alone and marginalized. “In this way, you translate into action your fidelity to the Gospel, which urges you to serve your brothers and sisters, especially the most disadvantaged."
The Pope noted that in their 100 years of service ANA members have not remained spectators during the most difficult moments of their fellow Italians, such as during earthquakes, disasters and the pandemic.“ This concreteness in serving, which is the soul of your association,” he said, “is Gospel put into practice.” No wonder then that the history of the Alpine Corps includes among its members Blesseds such as chaplains Fathers Carlo Gnocchi and Secondo Pollo and Teresio Olivelli and Brother Luigi Bordino.
Experts in field hospitals
The Holy Father encouraged ANA members to remain firmly attached to their strong roots fraternity and service, saying it is an example of civil and Christian responsibility. “You are experts in field hospitals,” he said, adding it is not enough to pitch tents "but above all, you need human warmth, a presence alongside". He concluded urging them in their ‘fatherly presence’ to the weakest, saying Jesus is present in them.