San Giovanni Rotondo (AsiaNews) – “Simplicity”, humility and having been “seized by Christ”, the characteristics of Padre Pio, part of the inheritance he left his brother capuchins, the prayer groups inspired by him and all Christians, to combat secularism and activism: this was the pope's message during his pastoral visit to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Graces, in San Giovanni Rotondo, the final resting place of the bodily remains of Padre Pio, who was canonized in 2002. At the beginning of the Year for Priests, Benedict XVI has launched another model for all priests showing to all the example of the friar from Pietrelcina: "A simple man of humble origins, 'seized by Christ' (Phil 3:12) ... to make of him an elected instrument of the perennial power of his Cross: the power of love for souls, forgiveness and reconciliation, spiritual fatherhood, effective solidarity with the suffering. The stigmata, that marked his body, closely united him to the Crucified and Risen Christ ".
From the Vatican, the pontiff travelled by plane to the sanctuary. Before the Eucharist, together with hundreds of thousands of faithful from all over the world, the Pope paused for a few minutes in the crypt which houses the body of the saint, lighting two lamps in memory of his visit.
In his homily, Benedict XVI reflected on the Gospel of the day, which recounts the miracle of the clamed storm (Mk 4, 35-41). “The solemn gesture of calming the stormy sea is clearly a sign of the lordship of Christ over the negative powers and it induces us to think of His divinity: "Who is He – ask the disciples in wonder - that even the wind and the sea obey him?" (Mk 4.41). Their faith is not yet steadfast, it is taking shape, is a mixture of fear and trust; rather Jesus trusting abandonment to the Father is full and pure. This is why He sleeps during the storm, completely safe in the arms of God - but there will come a time when Jesus will feel anxiety and fear: When His time comes, He shall feel upon himself the whole weight of the sins of humanity, as a massive swell that is about to fall upon Him. Oh yes, that shall be a terrible storm, not a cosmic one, but a spiritual one. It will be Evil’s last, extreme assault against the Son of God….. In that hour, Jesus was on the one hand entirely One with the Father, fully given over to him – on the other, as in solidarity with sinners, He was separated and He felt abandoned”.
Padre Pio too, said the pope, lived these “storms” together with Christ. “Remaining united to Jesus, - explains Benedict XVI - he always had his sights on the depths of the human drama, and this was why he offered his many sufferings, why he was able to spend himself in the care for and relief of the sick - a privileged sign of God's mercy, of his kingdom which is coming, indeed, which is already in the world, a sign of the victory of love and life over sin and death. Guide souls and relieving suffering: thus we can sum up the mission of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina: as the servant of God, Pope Paul VI said of him". “Padre Pio –he added - drew on the path of holiness by his own testimony, showing by example the "track" that leads to it: prayer and charity”. Benedict XVI recalls the intensity with which Padre Pio celebrated mass and how the hospital founded by him “the House for the Relief of Suffering”, is the fruit of his close bond with the Sacred Heart of Christ.
And speaking to the friars, the spiritual groups linked to Padre Pio and all those listening, he affirmed: “The risks of activism and secularization are always present, so my visit was also meant to confirm fidelity to the mission inherited from your beloved Father. Many of you, religious and laity, are so taken by the full duties required by the service to pilgrims, or the sick in the hospital, you run the risk of neglecting the real need: to listen to Christ to do the will of God. When you see that you are close to running this risk, look to Padre Pio: In his example, his sufferings, and invoke his intercession, because it obtains from the Lord the light and strength that you need to continue his mission soaked by love for God and fraternal charity”.
After the Mass, Benedict XVI led the Angelus prayer, recalling the devotion that Padre Pio had to the Madonna. "All his life - he said - and his apostolate took place under the maternal gaze of the Blessed Virgin and by the power of her intercession. Even the House for the Relief of Suffering he considered to be the work of Mary, 'Health of the sick'. "
"To the intercession of Our Lady and St Pio of Pietrelcina - he added - I would like to entrust the Special Year for Priests, which I opened last Friday on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. May it be a privileged opportunity to highlight the value of the mission and holiness of priests to serve the Church and humanity in the third millennium! "
Before beginning the Marian prayer, the pontiff briefly recalled the UN World Day for Refugees, held yesterday: "There are many people who seek refuge in other countries fleeing from situations of war, persecution and natural disasters, and hosting them poses many difficulties, but is nevertheless necessary. God grant that, with the commitment of everyone, we do as much as possible to remove the causes of such a sad phenomenon. "