By Deborah Castellano Lubov

“Dear brothers living the time of old age or the bitter hour of sickness, I feel the need to say thank you.”

Pope Francis expressed his heartfelt sentiment to the elderly or ill clergy participating in the Sixth Day of Elderly and Sick Priests of Lombardy, being held today at the “Santa Maria del Fonte” Shrine of Caravaggio, in Bergamo, considered to be the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy, where thousands of elderly’s lives were taken, including numerous priests.

The Holy Father recalled all those priests who died from the virus as they courageously were there for their faithful.

“Thank you,” Francis said, “for the testimony of faithful love for God and for the Church. Thank you for the silent proclamation of the Gospel of life. Thank you because you are the living memory from which to draw to build the Church’s tomorrow.”

As the Holy Father addressed his fellow priests as his “dear brothers,” he expressed: “I rejoice that this year also, despite the necessary limitations to counteract the pandemic, you have gathered together with your Bishops in the Shrine of Our Lady of Caravaggio.”

Recalling how the tragic pandemic and lockdowns made many recognize their precariousness and fragility, the Holy Father, nonetheless called for togetherness and courage.

“Let us not be afraid of suffering: the Lord carries the cross with us!” he said.

Francis expressed his hope that this period help them better understand the necessity to not waste the time given to them, noting “may it help you to relish the beauty of encounter with the other, to heal from the virus of self-sufficiency.”

“Let’s not forget this lesson!” he said.

Amid the emptiness and in the harshest period, many, the Pope said, almost spontaneously, raised their gaze to Heaven. “With the grace of God, it can be an experience of purification. For our priestly life also, fragility can be “as the smelter’s fire and as the lye of launderers” (Malachi 3:2) that, raising us to God, refines and sanctifies us.”

Saying he entrusts each one of the priests to the Virgin Mary, Pope Francis prayed: “To Her, Mother of priests, I remember in prayer the many deceased priests due to this virus and those facing the course of rehabilitation.”

The Holy Father concluded, sending his heartfelt blessing and asking them to pray for him..

Here is a ZENIT translation of the message:

* * *

The Holy Father’s Message

Dear Brother Priests.

I rejoice that this year also, despite the necessary limitations to counteract the pandemic, you have gathered together with your Bishops in the Shrine of Our Lady of Caravaggio.

I thank the Lombard Episcopal Conference, which for six years, has organized this Day of Prayer and Fraternity with the elderly and sick clergy. This attention of the Pastors, for the frailest physical part of their presbytery, is beautiful. In reality, you are priests that, in prayer, in listening and in the offering of sufferings, carry out a not secondary ministry in your Churches.

I thank UNITALSI and those that did their utmost for the success of the meeting. With their concrete commitment and with the spirit that animates them, the volunteers express the gratitude of all the People of God to their ministers.

And it us above all to you, dear brothers living the time of old age or the bitter hour of sickness, that I feel the need to say thank you. Thank you for the testimony of faithful love for God and for the Church. Thank you for the silent proclamation of the Gospel of life. Thank you because you are the living memory from which to draw to build the Church’s tomorrow.

We have all experienced restrictions over the last months. Days, spent in a limited space, seem interminable and always the same. We have felt the lack of dearest affections and of friends; the fear of contagion has reminded us of our precariousness. Deep down, we have known what some of you, as well as many other elderly, live daily. I hope very much that this period will help you to understand that, much more than occupying spaces, it’s necessary not to waste the time that has been given to you; may it help you to relish the beauty of encounter with the other, to heal from the virus of self-sufficiency. Let’s not forget this lesson!

In the harshest period, full “of deafening silence and of a desolating emptiness” (Moment of Prayer, March 27, 2020), many, almost spontaneously, raised their gaze to Heaven. With the grace of God, it can be an experience of purification. For our priestly life also, fragility can be “as the smelter’s fire and as the lye of launderers” (Malachi3:2) that, raising us to God, refines and sanctifies us. Let us not be afraid of suffering: the Lord carries the cross with us!

Dear brothers, I entrust each one of you to the Virgin Mary. To Her, Mother of priests, I remember in prayer the many deceased priests due to this virus and those facing the course of rehabilitation.

I send you my heartfelt blessing. And you, please, don’t forget to pray for me.

Rome, Saint John Lateran, August 13, 2020

Francis

[Original text: Italian} [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

The post Pope to Bergamo: ‘Dear Brother Priests With Old Age or Bitter Illness, I Feel Need to Say Thank You’ appeared first on ZENIT – English.

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