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25/2/2008 - Italy - The Pope’s visit to Testaccio
Photo for the article -ITALY – THE POPE’S VISIT TO TESTACCIO
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(ANS – Rome) – Yesterday, 24th February, the Salesian parish of “Santa Maria Liberatrice” in the Rome quarter of Testaccio welcomed Pope Benedict XVI with great enthusiasm.

The vsit coincided with celebrations for the centenary of the dedication of the parish church which was entrusted to the Salesians at the time of its construction. In welcoming the Pope, Don Manfredo Leone, parish priest, recalled other successors of St Peter who visited the church in the last century: Paul VI in 1966, and John Paul II in 1979 just a few months after the beginning of his pontificate.

In his homily the Pope thanked the Salesians for their extensive pastoral commitment in the area and he greeted the various parish groups, the Salesian Cooperators, the Past Pupils of Don Bosco, and the different religious communities situated within the parish: the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, the Daughters of Divine Providence, and the Good Shepherd Sisters.

Referring to the readings for the Third Sunday of Lent, in particular to the episode when the Jewish people put God to the test (EX 17:7), the Pope pointed out the danger for every believer of ‘practising a a relgious life that is not genuine; of seeking to satisfy the most intimate yearnings of the heart in ways that are not of God; of using God as if He were at the service of our desires and ambitions”. “When that happens,” he continued, “ our faith becomes fragile, our trust weakens, our religious outlook becomes contaminated with mere wordly, fanciful notions”.

The Pope reminded the people that Lent constitutes an invitation to revue our relationship with Jesus, to seek his face tirelessly. “This is indispensable, because it falls to you, my dear friends,
to continue, in this new cultural and social environment, the work of evangelisation and of human and Christian education which has gone on for more than a century in this parish, which the Venerable Luigi Maria Olivares can count among his many parishes. Open your hearts more and more to the call for missionary pastoral involvement such as stimulates each Christian to go out to others, especially the young and families. Go to them where they live, where they work, where they spend their leisure time, and tell them about the merciful love of God.”

Bendict XVI also gave encouragement “to continue in the work of education, which is the typical charism of every Salesian parish. Make sure that the Oratory, the school, the teaching of the faith, and experiences of prayer are led by authentic educators who give witness by their genuine love, especially for children, teenagers and young adults. May Holy Mary Liberator, so loved and venerated by you, who together with her spouse Joseph educated Jesus as child and adolescent, protect families, and religious men and women in their task of forming the young. May She bring them joy, as Don Bosco wished, in seeing the young in this part of the city growing up to be good Christians and honest citizens.

At the end of the Mass the Pope met briefly with with some representatives of parish patoral ministry and with religious from the area. During this encounter, at which many young people were present, the Pope listened to a poem in Roman dialect delivered in his honour.

In the course of this gathering the Pope recalled two phrases which had struck him: the first, said by Don Manfredo Leone in his words of welcome to the Pope, was:  ‘We have more future than past’; the second: “Here we make holiness consist of being always happy” attached to the picture of saint Dominic Savio, which was brought in as thePope was greeted at the start of the meeting in the ‘Greenwich’ hall.

Before returning to the Vatican for the Angelus, the Pope alluded to the figure of the Samaritan woman who foreshadows ‘modern man and woman’. “She has had 5 husbands,” said the Pope
and now she has one. You can see that she has made full use of her freedom, and in spite of that she is no longer free. Rather, her life is quite empty”.He added:  “It is very moving to realize that the moment Christ speaks to her, she is able to look into the depths of her heart
and find herslf asking: is this God?”.

Published 25/02/08

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