Pope at World Meeting of Families: spread gifts of love, sacrifice

Photo Caption: Pope Benedict XVI greets the crowd as he arrives to lead an encounter outside Milan’s cathedral during the World Meeting of Families in Milan June 1.

By: By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service

MILAN (CNS) — As tens of thousands of families from all over the world gathered for the World Meeting of Families, Pope Benedict XVI urged them to use their Christian values and strengths to help bring peace, joy and solidarity to everyone in their lives.

“It is within a family that one experiences for the first time how the human person was not created to live closed up in himself, but in relationship with others,” the pope said as he appealed for continued help for those affected by two deadly earthquakes in northern Italy.

While the May 30-June 3 world meeting centered on the joy and celebration of families living their faith, the pope said it was impossible to not remember all those who were suffering in the world as he called for greater solidarity.

The pope arrived by plane from Rome June 1 to jubilant crowds who lined the streets from the airport to a packed square in front of the soaring spires of Milan’s Gothic cathedral.

Families chanted and waved white kerchiefs, enjoying the strong breeze and shielding their heads from the bright sun with baseball caps provided in the pilgrim kits. The popemobile stopped several times en route to let babies get a papal kiss and blessing.

The city band played as the pope pulled in to his first stop of the cathedral square to greet all the city’s citizens of every culture and background.

A vibrant business and economic hub, Milan represents a “crossroad of peoples and cultures,” the pope said.

It has known for centuries how to welcome the best new ideas and contributions while holding strong to its unique heritage, he said.

“Still today Milan is called to rediscover this positive role of hers, to be a herald of development and peace for all of Italy,” he said.

The pope emphasized the love and concern he held in his heart for all those in difficulty, those who feel isolated, the unemployed, the sick, prisoners, the homeless and those living in conditions that strip them of their dignity.

He praised the church for coming to the aid of those in need, especially during a time of continued economic crisis, and he thanked everyone for helping those hit by two earthquakes near Bologna May 20 and 29. The total toll was estimated to be at least 24 people dead, hundreds injured and thousands made homeless.

Pope Benedict said those affected by the tragedy were in his heart and prayers, and he urged people to be generous with their help. The world meeting organizers had collection boxes set up in the congress hall and were sending donations to the appropriate Caritas organization.

Later, after enjoying an evening concert featuring Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 at the city’s famed La Scala opera house, the pope again appealed for everyone to not forget to care for those in need.

The concert, given in honor of the pope’s visit by city officials, was attended by the city’s glitterati and important dignitaries. The pope said the choral symphony’s lyrics, “Ode to Joy,” written by Friedrich Schiller, were an invitation to overcome egoism, celebrate peaceful coexistence and strive for a civilization marked by love and solidarity.

He said it was hard to fully celebrate knowing there were so many people suffering from the recent quakes, but he said he hoped the music and lyrics would inspire everyone to turn that suffering into love and concrete solidarity.

The family is the first place people become aware that the world does not revolve around just themselves, he said. It’s in the family one learns that the driving force is not egoism, but self-giving, and “it is in the family that the light of peace begins to light up in the heart,” a light that is meant to radiate out into the world.

Bringing Christian values to life is urgent, he said in his earlier speech to the city of Milan.

Faith in Jesus Christ must be alive and witnessed in everyday life — both personal and social, public and private, he said — so as to create a society that is stable and dedicated to the true well-being of people.

The city’s Christian roots must spread forth and not be isolated from others, bringing hope and life to all of Italy and Europe, he said.

Secular society and people of faith are called to work together for the public good, he added.

The pope also upheld the city’s most famous citizens, from Popes Paul VI and Pius XI to Sts. Ambrose, Charles Borromeo and Gianna Molla.

St. Gianna is a particularly apt model for families — she was a wife, mother and active professional woman in church and community life, he said.

“She made shine the beauty and joy of faith, hope and charity,” he said.

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