FRANCIS: MIGRANT SITUATION WORLD’S GREAT TRAGEDY SINCE WWII – ITALIAN LIFEGUARDS GIVE POPE BACKPACKS FOR THE NEEDY

FRANCIS: MIGRANT SITUATION WORLD’S GREAT TRAGEDY SINCE WWII

Pope Francis has called for an ongoing commitment to welcome and integrate forced migrants and refugees and described the current migration phenomenon as the world’s greatest tragedy after the Second World War.

At the audience he spoke specifically to the Italian association, Migrantes Foundation, an arm of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) that promotes the pastoral care of migrants and refugees arriving in Italy. Noting that it offers services and help to migrants and refugees upon their arrival and a long-term process of integration, the Pope highlighted the rights and the responsibilities of those who receive and of those who are received, and described the current migration crisis as the greatest tragedy after World War 2.

He was addressing the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly general audience during which he continued his catechesis on Christian hope and appealed to the faithful to ‘re-discover’ the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Pope Francis reflected on a reading from Saint Paul that centers on the attitudes of steadfastness and encouragement, saying they “are intimately connected to the reality of Christian hope because ours is a God of steadfastness as he loves us perseveringly and never tires of consoling us.”

“He is also a God of encouragement,” said Francis, “who calls us to be close to the weak and the needy with whom he asks us to be strong and to be sowers of hope. Even more, Christians are called to spread hope by supporting and encouraging one another, especially those in danger of faltering.  But we do so with the strength provided by the Lord, who is our unfailing source of hope.”

Later, speaking to an Italian association that offers services and help to migrants and refugees upon their arrival and a long-term process of integration, the Pope highlighted the rights and the responsibilities of those who receive and of those who are received, and described the current migration crisis as the greatest tragedy after World War 2.

He was speaking just days before EU Heads of State or Government convene in the city to mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rom that established the European Union.

In an appeal after the catechesis, Pope Francis reminded all Catholic communities to participate in the upcoming “24 hours for the Lord” initiative on March 24 and 25 with churches across the globe offering the Sacrament of Confession as a “privileged moment of grace” during our Lenten journey.

In Rome, on Friday March 24, the churches of Santa Maria in Trastevere and Le Stimmate di San Francesco will remain open from 8pm for Confession and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

On Saturday March 25, a service of thanksgiving will take place at 5pm in the church of Santo Spirito in Sassia. Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, will preside over First Vespers of the Fourth Sunday of Lent.

People around the world can show their support for the initiative by using the #24hoursfortheLord hashtag.  (source Vatican Radio)

ITALIAN LIFEGUARDS GIVE POPE BACKPACKS FOR THE NEEDY

More than 1,500 lifeguards and coastal resort business representatives wearing distinctive red jackets were at Wednesday’s General Audience to give backpacks to the Holy Father containing items like toothpaste and razors.

The initiative was organized by the “Sindacato Italiano Balneari (S.I.B),” an organization that provides vital supervision for bathers at coastal resorts throughout the country.

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The organization president, Riccardo Borgo, said: “With this gesture we came to give a concrete help to Pope Francis and his works in support of the homeless. We also delivered to His Holiness the distinctive symbol of Italian lifeguards, the red shirt with the word ‘Rescue’ identical to the one worn on our beaches by the thousands of boys and girls each summer who supervise and work so that bathing happens in complete safety and tranquility.”

He added, “For this summer, we have other charitable initiatives and solidarity planned in favor of children and the poor.”

More than 1,000 reusable backpacks made up of different products including soap, shaving foam, and deodorants were handed over to the Holy Father for distribution to the poor at Easter. S.I.B came up with the idea following Pope Francis’ initiative launched at the Vatican two years ago that provides showers and barber services for homeless people.

The lifeguards and coastal resort entrepreneurs were joined in St Peter’s Square by their families and were accompanied by the Bishop of Chioggia, Adriano Tessarolo, as well as several priests from coastal regions.

Following the audience, a delegation consisting of one representative for each coastal town met with the papal almoner Archbishop Konrad Krajewski who gave them Rosary beads as a memento of the event.

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