The Holy Father paid a visit to the homeless shelter at Rome's central Termini Station on Sunday morning along with a number of Church, local government and business representatives. He spoke to the gathering of the importance of charity in promoting human dignity and building an civilization of love.
In his address to mark the occasion, Pope Benedict XVI recognized the many benefactors, workers and volunteers who employ themselves daily to taking action on the words of Jesus, "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me..."
Directing his words to those assisted through these efforts, a number of whom were in attendance, the Holy Father said, "know that the Church loves you profoundly and won't abandon you, because it recognizes in every one of your faces the face of Christ" who identified himself particularly with the poor and indigent.
"The witness of charity... belongs to the mission of the Church together with the announcement of the truth of the Gospel," noted the Pope, adding that "man doesn't just need to be nurtured materially or helped to overcome moments of difficulty, but he also needs to know who he is and know the truth about himself, about his dignity."
And the Church, he explained, is "committed to announcing to all the truth of man, that he is loved by God, created in his image, redeemed by Christ and called to eternal communion with Him."
Through the actions of those who offer their services, pointed out the Pope, "so many people have been able to rediscover... dignity, sometimes lost through tragic events, and find again trust in themselves and hope in the future."
Speaking then to those who work in the facility, the Holy Father implored them to always be "joyful witnesses of the infinite love of God" and to "consider these friends of yours one of the most precious treasures of your life."
Benedict XVI further encouraged not only Catholics, but "all men of good will.. to work to build a future deserving of man, rediscovering in charity the 'propulsive' strength for a true development and for the realization of a more just and fraternal society" in both individual and social, economic and political relations.
It is important, he added, to promote the recognition that we compose a single human family. The ideals of giving and volunteering freely must be rediscovered today "as constitutive elements of daily living and interpersonal relations" so as to "prevail over the logic of profit and seeking individual interests."
The Caritas shelter, concluded the Holy Father, offers a concrete manifestation of the collaboration of the Christian community with civil institutions to promote the "common good" and thereby offer a "true school" in which youth and other volunteers can learn to be "builders of a civilization of love, capable of taking in others in their uniqueness and differences."
Joining Pope Benedict on the visit were the Cardinal Vicar General of Rome Agostino Vallini, president of Caritas Italy, Bishop Giuseppe Merisi, and other representatives of Caritas as well as numerous local government officials including the mayor of Rome. A delegate from among those helped through the shelter, Giovanna Cataldo, also gave a short address on the occasion.