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February 1 2015 | ROME, ITALY

The liturgy for remembering Modesta, the "saint" of the homeless, the symbol of reconciliation for the city of Rome

With the memory of today in Santa Maria in Trastevere, we begin a long series of liturgies in which the poor, dead due to street life, are remembered by name, as part of the family of Sant'Egidio

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This morning, hundreds of people, including many women and homeless men, have filled the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere. The celebration of the Community of Sant'Egidio remembered all the "street friends" that have lost their lives often in abandonment, loneliness, poverty, to whom the Community is close through the service of soup-kitchens, hospitality, the daily help.

Over two hundred names were remembered during the liturgy while, for each of them, a candle was lit in the big golden candelabra beside the altar of the Roman basilica. Similar ceremonies are held these days in the places - in Italy and abroad - where the Community of Sant'Egidio lives and is close to those that live and die homeless.

The initiative started with the memory of a Roman elderly woman, Modesta Valenti, who was homeless and sheltered to sleep at Termini Station at night. It was 31 January, 1983, when she became ill and died after hours of agony without relief because the ambulance crew refused to take her on board: she was dirty due to her living conditions.

"To remember Modesta Valenti - said the founder of the Community of Sant'Egidio, Andrea Riccardi - is important for the homeless, but also for those that have a house, because it is a symbol of reconciliation for the entire city of Rome and for Italy, in a time of crisis like the present, in which we record double the attendance of the poor at the Christmas lunches that we organise every year".

Commenting in his homily on the passage of the Gospel of Mark that tells the healing of a demon-possessed man, don Vittorio Ianari said that the "unclean spirit" that must be cast out of the existence of people today is "the spirit of resignation that leads us to accept passively the course of events without intervening to change them for the better".

At the end of the celebration, all present took part in a lunch offered by the Community of Sant'Egidio in the premises of the Basilica.

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