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 CNS Story:

POPE-SHELTER May-21-2013 (480 words) With photo. xxxi

Pope, visiting shelter, says Christian charity is witness of God's love

Pope Francis blesses a member of the Missionaries of Charity during a visit to a soup kitchen and women's shelter at the Vatican. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Marking the 25th anniversary of the Missionaries of Charity soup kitchen and women's shelter at the Vatican, Pope Francis said that while unbridled capitalism has taught people that money is more important than anything else, works of Christian charity witness to God's love for each person.

"Unbridled capitalism has taught the logic of profit at any cost, of giving in order to receive, of exploitation without looking at the person," Pope Francis said May 21, visiting the "Dono di Maria" or "Gift of Mary." The results of such attitudes, he said, "we see in the crisis we are now living through."

The facility is inside the Vatican walls near the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Paul VI audience hall; it serves meals to about 60 people each day and offers accommodation to 25 women.

"In these years, how many times you have bent down to those in need like the good Samaritan," the pope told the sisters. "You have looked into their eyes, you have given them a hand to help them up. How many mouths you have fed with patience and dedication. How many wounds, especially spiritual ones, you have bound up."

Following the Indian tradition, the sisters placed a garland of flowers around the pope's neck as he arrived for the visit.

Pope Francis said modern men and women need to recover their understanding of what a gift is, what it means to offer something without expecting anything in return and what it means to be in solidarity with the suffering.

For Christians, he said, charity is not a social obligation, but a sharing of "the love of God, the charity of God."

Pope Francis said the shelter, "on the border between the Vatican and Italy," should be "a strong reminder to us all -- the church, the city of Rome -- to be ever more a family, a 'home' that is ready to welcome, to give attention, to foster brotherhood."

Blessed John Paul II gave the building to Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta May 21, 1988, and visited the facility and the people it serves eight times. Pope Benedict XVI also visited the shelter.

Pope Francis said that between the beatified pope and the beatified founder of the Missionaries of Charity, the Dono di Maria is "something between saints, between the blessed."

He told the women who live at the shelter that the house really is theirs since it was planned and opened for them. And, he said, while it may have been a gift to them in their need, "you are a gift to this house and to the church. You tell us that loving God and your neighbor isn't something abstract, but profoundly concrete; that means seeing in every person the face of the Lord to be served and to serve him concretely."


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