St. Benedict Joseph Labre Parish, Rome
31 October 1999
1. "You have one master, the Christ" (Mt 23:10). The Gospel passage we
heard a few moments ago recounts Jesus' dispute with the scribes and Pharisees.
Echoing the voice of the Old Testament prophets (cf. Mal 2:1-10), Jesus condemns
their hypocrisy based on the presumption of being righteous before God. This is
an attitude that removes man from the path of good. And it is an attitude that
can lurk today in the human heart.
Jesus' words warn us against every "Pharisaism", that is, from the concern
for appearances, from the easy compromise with falseness and the temptation to
assert ourselves independently of the divine will. Before man's proud pretence
of being able to do without God, Jesus, the real Master, addresses a pressing
invitation to receive the action of divine grace with humble openness: "Whoever
exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted"
2. Dear brothers and sisters of St. Benedict Joseph Labre Parish, I greet you
all with affection, with a special thought for the Cardinal Vicar, for the
Auxiliary of the area, Bishop Enzo Dieci, for your parish priest, Fr. Francesco
Troiani, and for everyone who assists him in the pastoral care of this young
Yes, yours is a young community. Young because of its date of birth: the
first families came to this new neighborhood in 1993. Young because of its
make-up: the majority of the community consists of young families who came to
live in this area called "La Torraccia" after their wedding and who now welcome
into these new homes the gift of children with which God wished to bless their
marriage. In this regard, I know that over 200 Baptisms are administered in this
parish every year and that there are many children enrolled in catechism
classes. To you, dear children, to you parents, catechists and teachers goes my
cordial greeting and encouragement to continue generously with your active
participation in the life of the parish community and in your joyous witness to
3. While we thank God for the fundamental role that the family based on
marriage and enriched with the gift of children has in the Church and in
society, we cannot fail to be concerned today about the many family units that
arc unfortunately in difficulty and couples --- even while happily married who
do not have the courage to open themselves to the gift of life. May the Lord
touch the hearts of our brothers and sisters and enable them to persevere in
married life and to be generous in welcoming children.
Today's pastoral visit to your parish offers me the occasion to make my own
the appeal addressed a few days ago by the Bishops of Lazio to the political and
institutional authorities and to all citizens (cf. L'Osservatore Romano,
22 October 1999, p. 8). I once again ask the civil authorities to spare no
effort in promoting and protecting the family based on marriage, without
allowing it to be confused with other and quite different forms of union. I urge
the ecclesial communities and every individual believer to work with every
greater zeal for the family and the values it bears, convinced that these
efforts effectively contribute to the common good.
In this regard, I hope that even in your recently built neighborhood there
soon may be those essential structures that support the families who reside
here, enabling them to open themselves with greater generosity to the gift of
life and to lead tranquil married lives. I am thinking of the necessity for
day-care centers, kindergartens and all those structures which help parents in
their educational task.
4. Dear brothers and sisters, in coming here among you this morning I
realized that your new parish church is basically the only meeting place in the
neighborhood. The parish structures must therefore be open to receive whoever
knocks at the door in search of spiritual and material help.
I know that in this parish pastoral activity began in an itinerant form, due
to the lack of a fixed place of worship and parish structures. I congratulate
you for transforming this initial inconvenience into an occasion of authentic
Gospel witness, following the example of your patron, St Benedict Joseph Labre.
As you know, he was a pilgrim. Called the "French saint", he came from beyond
the Alps to Rome and lived without a fixed abode, trusting only in God and being
abundantly nourished by his Word and the Eucharist. Roman by adoption, he died
in sanctity in a butcher's poor back-shop, just a short distance from the
Colosseum, where he lived among the ruins.
Following the example of St Benedict Joseph Labre, may you too preserve the
enthusiasm and style of the early years of your parish community, which was
characterized by taking the Gospel message from house to house and by the
celebration of the Eucharist in the entrance halls of the apartment buildings.
This must remain your pastoral style, even if' now you can enjoy this lovely new
parish church, while pursuing the objectives and goals of the City Mission.
5. The Holy Year of 2000 is fast approaching! It will be an intensely
"Eucharistic" year, especially during the month of June, when the International
Eucharistic Congress will be held here in Rome. As I invite the entire Christian
community to prepare for this great faith event with faith and devotions, I urge
everyone to rediscover the precious gift of the Eucharistic Bread, which is "the
strength of the weak, the support of the sick, the balm that heals wounds, and
the viaticum for those leaving this world. It is the strength of the faithful
who work in environments and circumstances in which their presence is the only
possibility of proclaiming the Gospel" (Basic Text, 47th International
Eucharistic Congress, 2 June 1999, n. 11). May the celebration of the
International Eucharistic Congress give the Christians of Rome and of the whole
world the strength to live ever more intensely that missionary spirit which must
animate the Church of the third millennium.
6. All the disciples of Christ are bearers of a message of salvation that
comes from God and is meant for the whole world. It is not a word based on mere
human authority; rather, it possesses an authority that comes directly from God.
This is what St Paul tells us in the second reading this Sunday: "When you
received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the
word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you
believers" (I Thes 2:13).
Be mindful of the great treasure of the Word of God entrusted in its entirety
to the Church and to each individual believer. Let yourselves be evangelized by
the Word of Christ, to become in urn evangelizers for your brothers and sisters.
May Mary, Star of evangelization, who was the first to welcome humbly into
her womb the Word of God in order to offer him to the whole world, make us
attentive listeners to the Word and courageous witnesses of her Son, Jesus the
only Master and Savior of the world.