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December 21 2001

Rome - The Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Santa Maria in Trastevere

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"When you wipe the tears of those who suffered violence, you are wiping Jesus' tears". The words of the Archbishop Desmond Tutu during the prayer in Santa Maria in Trastevere.

Mt 25

In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, amen.

What a very great joy to be back here, with all of you, very beautiful people. And thank you very much, president, for your kind words of welcome. 

When I visited here for the first time, and I learn it was in 1988, I was taken round the Community Chapel. Over the altar was as always a crucifix, but this was a strange crucifix. The Christ had no arms and I asked: “what kind of a Christ is this?” and I was told: “Christ has no arms except your arms”. Very much what Santa Teresa of Avila said: “but the Lord no longer has any eyes, except your eyes to look out at all the pain and the anguish in the world”. God looks down at God’s world, and I think there are moments when God cries, when God sees how we, God’s children, treat one another. And maybe he says: “what ever got into my head to create this lot?” And then God looks down again and sees the Community of Sant’Egidio and God smiles and says: “well they make it worthwhile to have created that lot”. 

You prayed for us in South Africa when we were struggling against Apartheid; you have supported us in many different kinds of ways and today we are free, we are democratic. When many people had thought: “oh, that country is going to go up in flames!”. Look at what you have helped to bring about in Mozambique. They now have nearly ten years of peace, and you have a wonderful witness even in this city. Your work especially amongst foreigners has been outstanding, and so God cries and God smiles. 

I was told how on Christmas day the pews are removed from the church here The church becomes a restaurant and you feed a thousand people. Jesus upset many people. They thought his standards were very, very low; they thought he should have as friends archbishops, but Jesus didn’t have friends who were archbishops, his friends were prostitutes. Can you imagine if your priest or your bishop was seen in the red lights district and said he was doing pastoral work there. People would not believe it, but this is what Jesus did. He upset people for the friends he chose. He had solidarity with them, those who were despised, those who were pushed to the edges of society, the voiceless ones. As if that were not enough, he then tells the story of the Last Judgement; and this time he doesn’t just say: “these are my friends: the hungry, the homeless, the thirsty, the naked”, he says: “they are me”. So on Christmas day, when you feed a thousand people, if you had the right kind of eyes, you would look and you would see Jesus, incredible! Right incredible! When you wipe the tears of those who have been abused, you are wiping the tears from the eyes of Jesus. 

So, if you want to see God, you turn around and look at the person next to you, look at the person next to you; that is God, for each one of us is a God-carrier. Each one of us is God’s representative and if we really believe that, imagine the revolution that would happen in the world. Would I bomb God? Would I rape God? And so God says: “you here, the arms of this Jesus, go out and tell people: you are a God-carrier, you are precious, you are a sanctuary!”. What do you do when you pass in front of the tabernacle? When you pass in front of the altar usually you bow, but when you pass before the tabernacle, where you have the reserved sacrament, you genuflect. We shouldn’t just greet people, we ought to genuflect before them, for they are God-carriers. 

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