Rome, February 4, 2016
Basilica of St. John Lateran
Dear friends, because this is the best way for us of the Community to touch the lives of all of you here with us tonight, in this day of great joy, I would like to thank all of you on behalf of the Community for your presence and especially for the company that you give us day after day after all these years, because whoever is here, is not here by chance, but is accompanying our story, our life, and our dreams in one way or another. And so I thank you, truly thank you, for being here.
Thank you to Matteo for his words and for his presence. Many times you defined yourself as a child of this Community and today, hearing you speak, seeing your service to the Church of Bologna, I would say that truly you are a priest, a bishop, at the service of everyone, an expression of the universality of this Church, of this Community whose universality is born from the peripheries of the world. Thank you for what you said today.
This celebration is not removed from the world and does not forget all of the suffering that is going on within it. We have prayed for a couple of the countries at war and in this time we are particularly hurt by two situations, which are those of Syria – that has now been at war for five years. An incredible war that has provoked number disasters, many deaths, and forced so many to flee, the presence of an ancient Christianity to which we are so connected and that we owe so much to. We want to continue praying for peace in this country, as well as for peace in Burundi, a small country in Africa, in the area of the Great Lakes, that suffers at this time from the recrudescence of violence and of a government that was incapable of governing such a beautiful and small country.
But today we bring with us, as Matteo mentioned in his homily, a beautiful news. We are so happy to welcome in Rome, in this Church, the first family that has arrived in Italy through the Humanitarian Corridors, which grants refugees humanitarian visas and is part of a larger project thought of and run by our Community together with the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy (FCEI), and Waldensian Churches. I would like to thank Daniela Pompei and all of those who have worked so much to make this dream come true.
For this Project, which is done through an accord with the Minister of Foreign and Internal affairs of Italy, I thank all of the personnel and those who helped to make it possible, and the Italian government demonstrates another time the beautiful, grand, and human face of our country. Thank you.
(Speaking to the Syrian Family sitting in the front row) Welcome! Welcome!
What makes us so happy today is friendship, this celebration of friendship. First off a friendship with the poorest, the most vulnerable, those in the greatest difficulty, those who have always helped us be realists, but also dreamers. Realists because we must know the reality, we must understand it, we must live it with our feet on the ground and understand various situations. This is what the Pope always asks us to do. To start from the periphery is a great lesson for understanding what the true reality of life is, but also to dream because only by hearing and seeing the reality can we continue to fight and work so that, that reality may change. And we of the Community want to be a contribution here in Italy, and in every place in the world where the Community is, and I greet our representatives from Argentina, Indonesia, many countries in Africa and Europe that are here with us tonight. Wherever we are, we want to be a contribution to the change for the betterment of our world.
Friends of the poor for us, in fact, has an important significance, which is that to be friends of peace. We will not become tired and ask the Lord to take over the work of the Community because one cannot become tired working for Peace in the world.
We want to be, and I say this after 48 years of history, always more a Community of the people, a beautiful people, a people who pray, a group of friends as we see today in this Church. Yes, we want to be an expression of a human Christianity, friends of God, friends of the poor, and friends of peace. They are three roads that intertwine themselves into one story, our story. Three roads that met not too long ago with our new bishop of Rome, who when he visited us said “You are the Community of Prayer, of the Poor, and of Peace.” This is what we want to be as we approach our 50th anniversary, this is what we want to be with all of you.
Always stay close to us, remain our friends, because the world will change.