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November 12 2012

The greeting of Marco Impagliazzo, president of the Community of Sant'Egidio, to Pope Benedict XVI

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Most Blessed Father,

Today our joy is great for Your presence among us. We feel the grace to receive Your visit, after You prayed with us in the basilica of San Bartolomeo dedicated to the new martyrs, after You had lunch with the poor for Christmas, after You encouraged the Dream Program to fight AIDS in Cameroon.
 This people of all ages are happy to welcome You in this family home of the Community of Sant'Egidio for the elderly. This is a place of hope.

In the streets of Rome and of many European cities, we encounter more and more old people who are sad and resigned. Too many are forgotten: impoverished by illness, loneliness, frailty, exclusion. The blessing of a long life turns into sadness. We have asked ourselves for many years, “Is this an inevitable fate?”
In this house as well as in the other fourteen houses of the Community in Rome, the elderly find again hope. Here the words of Psalm 71, called “the prayer of an old person”, become true:
“But I will hope continually, and will praise you yet more and more” (14).

 Those who continue to hope, despite the difficulties of health, pray for themselves and for others. Today, your visit, Holy Father, sustains the elderly and all of us in hope.

This place was created for those who can no longer live at home because of their lack of autonomy, loss of housing, family conflict, poverty. To reduce the number of hospitalizations in mega-structures, we carried out experiences of co-housing, of elderly men and women living together, protected condominiums and family-homes. And then, with regular visits of many of us, we support thousands of elderly people in nursing homes or living alone at home.

The elderly continue to hope, supported by young people and adults who became their companions. The hope is reborn when you recreate a family atmosphere: young and old join together as if they were a family (grandparents, children, grandchildren).

Here and in many places in Rome where the Community visits the elderly, the marvelous unity, simple but essential, between love of the Gospel and love for the poor becomes true. We have understood that this is the heart of our lives. From listening to the Gospel flows a great love for all, especially for the poor. We have understood that faith moves minds, lives, and also policies in order to build a more welcoming world. We have experienced it in recent years, and with joy we communicate it to those we meet.
This house is the result of a dream that matured at the school of Jesus’ compassion for weary and sick crowds.  During these years You have always helped us with Your word to understand how faith is the source of all profound change in life and history; faith urges us to always live Jesus’ compassion. This compassion makes us better, more human, because it is a source of true humanism. The prophet Joel says,
"I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,   your old men shall dream dreams” (Joel 2:28).

Thanks to the Spirit that is love, the old dream. Yes, Holy Father, the old dream of when they are loved and accompanied every day. Thanks to the Spirit, the young people have visions of life; they are no longer afraid of the weakness of the elderly, which becomes rather and exchange of love. And the elderly are masters of love and humanity, as they see in those who help them almost angels.
Holy Father, with Your faith and Your preaching, You encourage us to make the word of the prophet true, the elderly dream and hope and the young people prophesy. Right at the beginning of the Year of faith, the blessing of Your visit makes us stronger in faith and more joyful in hope.

When from Your window You bless our City and the world, You may see the Gianicolo Hill where we are today. Remember this little people that he loves You.

Thank you.

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