Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Benedict XVI has appealed for international solidarity and support for the people of Haiti, devastated by an earthquake. After the general audience today, the Pope dedicated his thoughts "to the people hit hard, a few hours ago by a devastating earthquake, which caused heavy losses of human lives, a great number of homeless and missing and enormous damage. I invite everyone – he added-to join me in prayer to the Lord for the victims of this disaster and for those who mourn their loss. I assure my spiritual closeness to those who lost their homes and all those who are suffering in various ways from this major disaster, and I ask God for comfort and solace in their suffering. I appeal to the generosity of all, to not abandon these brothers and sisters in a time of need and grief, and that the concrete solidarity and active support of the international community is not lacking. The Catholic Church will not fail to take immediate action through its charitable organizations to meet the most immediate needs of the population".
Earlier, to eight thousand people present in the Paul VI he spoke of the "mendicant orders, the Franciscans and Dominicans, who, in the medieval towns were able to meet the need, which still exists today, for a presence in places of culture that proposes the Gospel teachings “with respect" and offers a coherent testimony of Christian life.
"In every generation - he observed - saints are born who can be "forces for reform and renewal". So it was in the thirteenth century, with the founding of mendicant orders, so called for their "humble appeal for people’s financial support so as to live their vow of poverty." "The most famous and important" are the Friars Minor and the Friar Preachers, Franciscans and Dominicans, that is, who owe their name to their fondours, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Dominic de Guzman. They "had the ability to read with understanding the signs of the times, realizing the challenges that faced the Church of their time."
It was a period when there was a strong group of faithful who "even if motivated by a deep search of the Christian life, opposed the Church, which appeared rich," even "owning property". Against this the idea was born that the Church of Christ should be poor and the churches of the poor. They were pauperistic movements. "They bitterly contested the way of life of priests and monks of the time, accused of having betrayed the Gospel and not practising poverty as the early Christians did, and they countered the ministry of bishops with their own parallel hierarchy. Furthermore, to justify their own choices, they spread doctrines incompatible with Catholic faith. For example, the movement of the Cathars or Albigenses proposed ancient heresies, such as the devaluation and contempt of the material world”, "the denial of free will, and then the duality, the existence of a principle of evil equated to God."
St. Francis and St. Dominic showed that " it is possible to live evangelical poverty without separating from the Church." "The members of the mendicant orders not only renounced the possession of personal property, as had monks since ancient times, but neither did they want land and property to be bequeathed to the community. In this way they intended to witness an extremely sober life, to show solidarity with the poor and trust in Providence. Their action was "much appreciated by Popes: Innocent III and Honorius III gave their full support, recognizing in them the voice of the Spirit." Pauperstic groups that were separated from the Church returned or disappeared.
And "even today, though living in a society where “having” often prevails over “being”, there is still a great sensitivity to the examples of poverty and solidarity, that believers give through courageous choices." In this regard, Benedict XVI recalled a phrase of Paul VI: "The world willingly listens to teachers, when they are also witnesses. This - he commented – is a lesson never to be forgotten in the work of spreading the Gospel: living in first person that which you preach, being a mirror of divine charity ."
Franciscans and Dominicans, the Pope continued, "were witnesses, but also teachers. Indeed, another widespread need in their day was that of religious formation" and they "were also able to successfully meet this need”. “With great zeal, they devoted themselves to preaching. Numerous faithful, often real crowds, gathered to listen to the preachers in churches and outdoor venues. They treated subjects close to people's lives, especially the practice of moral and theological virtues, with concrete, easily understandable examples. Moreover, they taught ways to nourish a life of prayer and piety".
This prompted a number of the faithful "who chose to be accompanied on the journey from the Franciscans and Dominicans Christian: spiritual directors and confessors wanted and appreciated. Were born, so, associations of lay faithful who are inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis and St. Dominic, adapted to their state of life. " This is the Third Order Franciscan who is Dominican. " It was a proposal for a "secular holiness" and as said the Second Vatican Council, "the call to holiness is not reserved to some, but it is universal."
Another challenge of that time was represented by the cultural changes taking place. The Friars Minor and Preachers "did not hesitate to take up this commitment, and as students and teachers, entered the most famous universities of the time, erected study centres, produced texts of great value, gave birth to real schools of thought, were the protagonists of scholastic theology in its best period, they were significantly incisive in the development of thought. "
"Even today there's a charity of and in truth, an intellectual charity to be exercised, to enlighten minds and unite faith with the culture. The commitment of the Franciscans and Dominicans in the medieval universities is a call, dear faithful, to be present in the places of knowledge, to propose, with respect and belief, the light of the Gospel on the key issues that affect man, his dignity, his eternal destiny. "
"At the beginning of this year - concluded Benedict XVI – we invoke Holy Spirit, the eternal youth of the Church; may he help everyone feel the urgency to provide a consistent and courageous witness to the Gospel, so the world will never lack holy men and women, who make the Church radiate, to render it capable of irresistibly attracting the world to Christ, to his salvation. "