Today, 27 December, Pope Benedict XVI visited the soup kitchen for the poor of the Community of Sant' Egidio. To welcome him on the door of the place, together with Prof. Andrea Riccardi, Prof. Marco Impagliazzo, Mons. Vincenzo Paglia, there was also a Roma woman and an immigrant from Senegal.
At the entrance the Holy Father greeted representatives of the volunteers that usually serve at the tables and some responsibles of the Community.
Andrea Riccardi showed to the Holy Father the monument that tells the story of Modesta Valenti, a homeless woman who died for lack of help at the Termini Railway Station of Rome and became the symbol of the people who live on the streets.
Benedict XVI then entered the room where he had to eat. Awaiting for him in two halls there were 150 guests. The pope, before sitting at table with 12 other guests, toured the rooms of the soup-kitchen meeting personally each of the guests.
Before the beginning of the lunch Prof. Riccardi made an address of greeting and welcome to Benedict XVI. (ITA)
The lunch with the Christmas menu then began with: hors d'oeuvre, lasagna, meatballs, lentils and mashed potatos. At the end of the lunch: sweets and a toast with sparkling wine. The sweets were offered by the Holy Father.
Once the lunch ended, the Pope personally delivered gifts 31 children who were .
Then the Pope pronounced his speech:
“Through gestures of love of those who follow Jesus it becomes visible the truth that God loved us first and that he continuously loves us first; this is why we also can answer with love (Enc. Deus caritas est, 17). Jesus says: 'I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me to drink; I was foreigner and you have welcomed me, naked and you have dressed me, sick and you have visited me, I was in prison and you have visited me' (Mt 25,35-36). And he concludes: 'All that you have done to one of these little brothers of mine, you have done it to me' (v. 40). Listening to these words, we can't help feeling really friends of those in whom the Lord recognizes himself. And not only friends, but also relatives opf theirs.
Dear Friends! It is for me a moving experience being with you, being here in the family of Sant'Egidio, being with the friends of Jesus because Jesus actually loves those who suffer, the people who experience difficulties and he wants to have them as his brothers and sisters. During the lunch, I listened to stories tha are full of sorrow and of humanity, but I also heard the story of a love that was found here: stories of elderly, migrants, homeless, gypsy people, disabled, persons with economical problems or other difficulty, all - one way or the other - scarred by life. I am here among you to tell you that I am close to you and I love you.
I came among you on the Feast of the Sacred Family because in a certain sense you resemble that family.
Also the family of Jesus since the its first steps met difficulty, the discomfort of not finding hospitality, it was compelled to move to Egypt for the violence of king Herod. You know suffering, but you have here someone who takes care of you, or rather, someone here found his family thanks to the thoughtful service of the Community of Sant'Egidio, that offers a sign of the love of God for the poor. Here today it is realized what happens at home: who serves and helps is confused with whom is helped and served, and the first place is for those who are most in need."
Subsequently the pope visited the upper floor, in the Library of the School of Italian of the Community of Sant'Egidio, where he met immigrants from 26 countries with some teachers. The Pope finally uncovered a sign commemorating the visit and before he departed he also greeted the people who had been gathered outside of the soup-kitchen.