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“I will visit you as soon as I can.” With these words, Pope Francis addressed during the Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square, which was muggy and crowded with pilgrims today, to people living in central Italy, hit by the earthquake that shocked the Lazio, Marche and Umbria regions. Bergoglio emphasized the Church’s closeness to those suffering because of the earthquake, praising the efforts of the rescuers and of those who are doing their best to bring them aid and solidarity.

The inhabitants of Amatrice, Accumoli, Arquata del Tronto. Pescara, and Norcia entered Francis’ heart. Bergoglio stresses the Church’s closeness to those who suffer and its desire to visit the earthquake zone as soon as possible: “I tell those dear people that the Church shares their suffering and their concerns, praying for the dead and for the survivors. The eagerness with which the authorities, police, civil protection and volunteers are working, shows the importance of solidarity to overcome such painful trials. Dear brothers and sisters, as soon as possible I hope I can visit you and bring you personally the comfort of faith, the father’s and brother’s embrace, and the support of Christian hope.”

Before the words on the earthquake, the Pope commented on this Sunday’s Gospel, the XXII Ordinary Time, reiterating what is the way of Christ, which prefers the last: “History teaches that pride, careerism, vanity, and ostentation are the cause of many evils. And Jesus makes us understand the necessity of choosing the last place, that is, of seeking humblness. When we come before God in this dimension of humility, God exalts us, stoops down to us to lift us to himself; for whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” The words spoken by Jesus “emphasize completely different and opposite attitudes: the attitude of those who choose their place themselves and the attitude of those who let it be assigned by God and expect a reward from Him: Do not forget: God rewards much more than men! He gives us a much nicer place than the one men give us! The place that gives us God is close to his heart and his reward is eternal life.”

“Christians – continued the Pope – must choose gratuity instead of opportunist calculation, trying to obtain a reward”, and “get richer.” In fact, he pointed out, “the poor, the simple, the ones who do not matter, can never pay back an invitation to sit at their table.” Thus “Jesus shows his preference for the poor and the excluded, who are the privileged of the kingdom of God, and launches the basic message of the Gospel which is to serve others for love of God. Today, Jesus gives a voice to those who have no voice and asks each of us to open our hearts and feel the sufferings and anxieties of the poor, the hungry, the marginalized, refugees, defeated by life, those who are rejected by society and by the arrogance of the strongest.”

Bergoglio recalled the great efforts of many volunteers, especially in the canteens which, he said, are true “charity gyms, which spread the culture of gratuity.” So, the invocation to the Virgin Mary to help Christians to be “capable of gratuitous gestures of reception and solidarity with the marginalized; capable of becoming worthy of the divine reward.”

After the Angelus prayer, and the announcement of the visit to the places affected by the earthquake, it is time to say goodbye to the pilgrims, the Pope recalled the beatification, in Argentina, of Sister Maria Antonia de San José: “His exemplary Christian witness especially his apostolate in the promotion of the Spiritual Exercises can arouse the desire to adhere more and more to Christ and to the Gospel.” Then he recalled that on Thursday, September 1st, we celebrate the “World Day of Prayer for the care of creation, together with our Orthodox brothers and other ecclesial communities.” It is a special occasion, “an opportunity to strengthen our common commitment to safeguarding life, respecting the environment and nature.” So, the traditional greeting that characterizes the Pope: “Do not forget to pray for me. Good Sunday and good lunch. Goodbye”.

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