Vatican City, Dec 31, 2013 / 12:07 pm
In his homily during evening prayer on New Year's Eve, Pope Francis focused on the theme of time well spent, urging the citizens of Rome to better their city in the upcoming year.
"It is the last day of the year. What will we do, how will we act next year, to make our city a little better?" he questioned the congregation gathered in St. Peter's Basilica on Dec. 31 in anticipation of the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.
Thinking of "this city of Rome," he continued. "What has happened this year? What is happening and what will happen? How is the quality of life in this city? It depends on all of us!"
"The face of a city is like a mosaic whose pieces are all the people that live there," Pope Francis explained.
In the city of Rome, noted the Pontiff, one feels "more strongly this contrast" between the "majestic environment" of artistic beauty and the "social hardships" faced by many living there.
"Rome is a city of unique beauty. Its spiritual and cultural patrimony is extraordinary. Nevertheless, in Rome there are also many persons marked by material and moral misery – poor, unhappy, suffering – who challenge the conscience not only of the responsible public officials, but of every citizen."
The ancient city is not only "full of tourists" but also "full of refugees" and those who are unable to have work. No matter what a person's circumstances, urged the Pope, he or she must be treated with "the same attitude of welcome and equality because each person is a bearer of human dignity."
He went on to stress the need for the men and women of Rome not to merely watch life "from afar" or "from a balcony, without getting involved in the many human problems" of those who live in the city.
The closing of the year is a time to reflect on "how we have seen the time that the Lord has given us."
"Have we used it above all for ourselves, for our interests, or have we known to spend it also for others? And for God?" Pope Francis queried.
"Each moment of our life is definitive and is charged with eternity," he reminded the congregation.
"The Church of Rome feels committed to make its own contribution to the life and future of the city, to animate it with the leaven of the gospel, to be a sign and instrument of the mercy of God.
In the coming year, then, Pope Francis emphasized, Rome will "have an even more beautiful face if it is more rich in humanity, hospitable, friendly, and if all of us are attentive and generous to those who are in trouble; if we work together with a constructive spirit of solidarity, for the good of all."