Monday, June 22, 2009

"Those who suffer must live the love of God through the wise acceptance of their pain, through serene meditation on their destiny to Him"

Address of Pope Benedict XVI
Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza

San Giovanni Rotondo
June 21, 2009

. . . Each time one enters a place of care, one's thoughts turn naturally to the mystery of disease and pain, to the hope of healing and to the inestimable value of health, which is often only recognized when it is lost. In hospitals one touches with one's hands the preciousness of our existence, but also its fragility. Following the example of Jesus, who traveled throughout Galilee, "healing every disease and every infirmity among the people" (Mt 4:23), the Church, from its very beginnings, moved by the Holy Spirit, has considered it her duty and privilege to stand beside those who suffer, cultivating a preferential attention for the sick.

Sickness, which manifests itself in many forms and strikes in different ways, raises disturbing questions: Why do we suffer? Can the experience of pain be considered positive? Who can liberate us from suffering and death?

Existential questions that often remain humanly unanswered since suffering is an unfathomable mystery for our human reason. Suffering is part of the very mystery of the human person. As I emphasized in the encyclical letter Spe Salvi, "it follows, on the one hand, from our finitude, and on the other hand, from the mass of guilt that has accumulated throughout history and even at present continues its unstoppable growth." And I added that "certainly we must do everything we can to reduce suffering ... but to eliminate it completely from the world is not in our possibilities simply because ... none of us is able to eliminate the power of evil ... continually the source of suffering" (see n.36).

Only God can remove the power of evil. Precisely due to the fact that Jesus Christ came into the world to reveal the divine plan of our salvation, faith helps us to penetrate the meaning of all things human and therefore also of suffering. There is, therefore, an intimate relationship between the Cross of Jesus -- the supreme symbol of the pain and the price of our freedom -- and our pain, which is transformed and transcended when it is lived in the awareness of the closeness and solidarity of God.

Padre Pio had understood this profound truth and, on the first anniversary of this work, said that in it "those who suffer must live the love of God through the wise acceptance of their pain, through serene meditation on their destiny to Him" (Meeting of May 5, 1957). He noted further that in the Casa Sollievo "the recovering, doctors, priests will be reserves of love, which in as much as it abounds in one, the more it will be communicated to others" (ibid.).

Be "reserves of love": This, dear brothers and sisters, is the mission that this evening our saint refers you to, who each in his own way form the great family of this Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza. May the Lord help you bring to fruition the project initiated by Padre Pio with the support of all: doctors and scientific researchers, health care professionals and the employees of various departments, volunteers and benefactors, the Capuchin friars and other priests. Without forgetting the prayer groups that "attached to the house of relief, are the advanced positions of this citadel of charity, nurseries of faith, outbursts of love" (Padre Pio, Speech, May 5, 1966).

On each and every one I invoke the intercession of Padre Pio and the maternal protection of Mary, Health of the Sick. Thank you again for your welcome and, while I assure you of my prayers for each of you, I cordially bless you all.

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