Rome (AsiaNews) - For Christians, charity can not be merely a "philanthropic gesture”, but must always express the love of God. This is a concept that Benedict XVI has stated on several occasions and reiterated again today during his visit to the "Don Orione Centre" in Rome to bless the great statue of Our Lady, "Salus Populi Romani", restored and relocated on a tower after it collapsed last October 12, in a violent storm.
The image which overlooks the city and which Romans affectionately call "the Madonna", is, as the Pope recalled today, "a dramatic and providential reminder of events, written in the history and conscience of the City. In fact, it was placed on the hill of Monte Mario in 1953, as the fulfilment of a popular vow made during the Second World War, when hostilities and armed conflict made many fear for the fate of Rome. So it was that the Roman centres of Don Orione gave rise to the proposal to collect signatures for a votive statue of Our Lady, which saw over one million people subscribe. The Venerable Pius XII took up the devout initiative of the people who wanted to entrust themselves to Mary and the vow was pronounced on June 4, 1944, before an image of Our Lady of Divine Love. On that very day, the peaceful liberation of Rome took place”.
Superior of the Don Orione Institute, Don Flavio Peloso, recalled that the statue, measuring 9 feet high and erected on the pedestal 10 feet, is the work of a Jewish sculptor, Minerbi Arrigo, who during the war "was hidden and protected in our home. He said: 'Give me the copper, and I will make a statue'. And so it was done".
Moreover the image was erected in a centre dedicated to assisting "maimed children and orphans." "The program of St. Luigi Orione, 'Only charity will save the world', was meaningfully realised here- the Pope said". "Don Orione lucidly and passionately lived the Church's task to live love to allow the light of God enter the world (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 39). He left that task to his disciples as a spiritual and apostolic path, believing that 'love opens our eyes to faith and warms hearts with love for God".
However, "works of charity - stressed Benedict XVI, addressing members of the Don Orione Institute- be they personal acts and or services offered to vulnerable people in large institutions, can never be reduced to philanthropic gestures, but must always remain a tangible expression of God’s providential love of God. Don Orione reminds us that for this to happen we must be moulded in the tender charity of Our Lord' (Writings 70, 231) through an authentically spiritual and holy life. Only then can pass from the works of charity to charity of works, because - added your founder - works devoid of the love of God, but evaluated before him, are worthless' (cf PSMC, 19.6.1920, P.141).