Pope Francis greets pilgrims from the birthplaces of Sts. John XXIII and Paul VI in northern Italy, and urges them to appreciate the roots of their faith and become saints themselves.
By Devin Watkins
A sizable group of pilgrims from northern Italy met with Pope Francis on Saturday morning, to mark the 60th anniversary of the encyclical Pacem in terries, the death of Pope John XXIII and the election of Pope Paul VI.
The pilgrims hail from the towns of Sotto il Monte and Concesio, the birthplaces of the two saintly Popes.
Importance of family
In his address, Pope Francis recalled that his two predecessors lived in a time of great enthusiasm surrounding the Second Vatican Council, as well as one of daunting challenges including terrorism and the Cold War.
He thanked God for the Christian witness of these two Popes, and urged the pilgrims from their homelands to follow in their saintly footsteps.
“These men were able to be great pastors because they encountered good companions along their way, witnesses of the Gospel who helped them grow in faith, until the light of the call was kindled in them,” said the Pope.
He added that the two Popes’ families instilled in them a love for solid Christian piety through hard work.
“God doesn’t create saints in a laboratory,” said Pope Francis. “He creates them in vast worksites in which the work of all, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, digs deep to make a solid base on which to build, taking care to construct in an ordered and perfect manner, with Christ as the cornerstone.”
Roots help defend against selfishness
The Pope went on to encourage the pilgrims from the two northern Italian towns to draw inspiration from John XXIII and Paul VI, as well as from their parents and grandparents who worked hard in joy and hardship to build a better future for their children.
“Always appreciate your roots, not so much as to build them into a defensive wall, but as a richness to share with others,” he said. “We work the ground together, on behalf of peace.”
Pope Francis also warned against selfishness and divisions in Christian communities, which threaten the faithful in many parts of the world.
John XXIII and Paul VI as cultural heritage
In conclusion, the Pope recalled that the regional capitals of Bergamo and Brescia have been chosen as the “Italian Capital of Culture” for 2023.
And he urged local residents to imbibe their rich heritage in the faith to help build up their parishes and families, according to the example of John XXIII and Paul VI.