.- The Holy Father met with thousands of members of the Italian Civil Protection Service on Saturday in the Paul VI Hall. He commended their voluntary service in protection of the common good and the dignity of man, comparing their work to that of the Good Samaritan.
Drawing attention to the strength of the volunteer organization in its approximately 1.3 million members, Pope Benedict XVI called it "one of the most recent and mature expressions of the long tradition of solidarity," which has its foundation "in the altruism and generosity of the Italian people."
Italian Civil Protection Service’s (ICPS) mission and "vocation" of protecting people and their dignity, he said, is well-represented in the name of the organization.
The ICPS provides assistance and security for national and international emergencies as well as major events, such as World Youth Day 2000 in Rome. They offered a massive response following the earthquake that rocked L'Aquila, Italy April 6, 2009.
"This mission," he continued, "does not only consist in emergency management, but in a precise and worthy contribution to the realization of the common good" which is always the goal of human coexistence "especially in the moments of great trials."
These occasions, said the Pope, provide a chance for "discernment and not desperation" and they offer the opportunity to design new plans for society oriented towards virtue and the good of all.
In the figure of the Good Samaritan, said the Holy Father, we see a model for the protection of the person and commitment to the common good. "This person indeed demonstrated charity and humility tending to an unfortunate person in the moment of utmost need."
While others turned a blind eye, the Good Samaritan taught us to "walk towards the emergency and to prepare ... the return to normalcy," he pointed out.
As these pages in Luke's gospel show us, said Benedict XVI, "love of our neighbor cannot be delegated: the State and politics, though with the necessary attention for welfare, cannot replace it."
Pope Benedict XVI repeated the words from his encyclical, “Deus caritas est” saying, "Love will always be necessary, even in the most just society" and this "requires and will always require personal and volunteer commitment."
For this reason, the Holy Father told the group of an estimated 7,000 people from the ICPS, volunteers are not just "hole-fillers" in society, but they are people who "truly contribute to delineate the human and Christian face of society."
"Without volunteer work, the common good and society cannot last long, as their progress and their dignity depend in great measure exactly on those people who do more than their strict duty."
The Holy Father called the members of the ICPS to be "living icons of the Good Samaritan," giving attention to their neighbors, remembering the dignity of man and inciting hope.
"When a person doesn't limit himself to just completing his duty in his profession and in the family, but he works for others, his heart delights. He who loves and serves another freely as a neighbor lives and acts according to the Gospel and takes part in the mission of the Church, which always protects the entire human and wants to make him feel the love of God," Pope Benedict concluded.