A Call to Charity for Refugees, From the City of Padre Pio


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(21 Jun 09 -RV) Pope Benedict XVI called for charity and hospitality for refugees today.

His appeal came in remarks ahead of the Angelus prayer following Mass at the Church of St. Pius of Pietralcina in San Giovanni Rotondo.

The Holy Father told the more than 30 thousand people gathered for the open air Mass under threatening skies in the southern Italian town of San Giovanni Rotondo that caring for people who flee war and persecution is a necessary task, even though it presents not a few difficulties.

The Pope's remarks came one day after the United Nations - sponsored World Day for Refugees, which seeks to draw attention to the plight of the millions of people who are forced by strife, anarchy, persecution and crushing poverty to flee their homes, their lands and livelihoods.

In his Homily, the Holy Father encouraged the Capuchin friars, the Padre Pio prayer group members and all the faithful of the town not to lose sight of their principal duty, which is to God.

The Pope said "Many of you, religious and secular, are so taken up by the thousand tasks required by service to pilgrims, or the sick in the hospitals, that you run the risk of neglecting the thing that is really needed: listening to Christ to fulfil the will of God,"

San Giovanni Rotondo's economy revolves around the saint, with hotels and restaurants getting the vast majority of their business from the more than 7 million pilgrims who flock to San Giovanni Rotondo annually.

The Holy Father held up Padre Pio as a model of sanctity, saying that his greatest struggles were, like Jesus' own, spiritual in nature - the attacks of the devil were greatest tempest that assailed him, and he defended himself from them with the armour of God, the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

St. Pius of Pietralcina, Padre Pio as he is affectionately known the world over, died 41 years ago after a life of intense mystical experience and the most rigorous self-abnegation.

Pope John Paul II canonized him in 2002.