VATICAN CITY, 6 MAR 2010 (VIS) - At midday today in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, the Pope met with 7,000 volunteers of the Italian Civil Protection, led by the head of that association, Guido Bertolaso.
In opening his remarks to them the Holy Father thanked everyone for the efforts they made during the April 2009 earthquake that hit the Italian region of Abruzzo, and he reiterated words he had used on his own visit to the devastated areas of Onna and l'Aquila: "Thank you for what you have done, and especially for the love with which you did it. Thank you for the example you have shown". He also expressed his gratitude for the service of the thousands of people who assisted at World Youth Day in Rome in 2000 and at John Paul II's funeral in 2005.
"You are", the Pope told his audience, "one of the most recent and mature expressions of the long tradition of solidarity that has its roots in the altruism and generosity of the Italian people".
"The terms 'civil' and 'protection'", he continued, "are an expression of your 'vocation' to protect people and their dignity - vital benefits of civil society - in tragic moments of calamity and crisis that threaten the life and security of families or entire communities. This mission does not consist only in managing the emergency, but in making a valid and appropriate contribution to achieving the common good".
"This dual dimension of protection, which is manifested both during and after an emergency, is well expressed in the figure of the Good Samaritan ... who teaches us to look beyond the emergency and to prepare ... the return to normality".
The Holy Father went on to highlight how "love for others cannot be delegated; the State and politics, while maintaining their necessary concern for social welfare, cannot replace such love. ... Volunteers are not just there to patch up holes in the social fabric, but individuals who truly contribute to forming the human and Christian face of society. Without voluntary work the common good and society cannot last long, because their progress and dignity is largely dependent on people who do more than just their duty".
"Apart from being custodians of the territory", he concluded, "always be living icons of the Good Samaritan, remaining attentive to others, recalling man's dignity and awakening hope. When people do not limit themselves merely to performing their duty, in their jobs and in their families, but dedicate themselves to others, their hearts expand. Those who love and serve others as neighbours live and act in accordance with the Gospel and share in the mission of the Church, who always concerns herself with man in his entirety and wishes to make him feel the love of God".
AC/.../CIVIL PROTECTION VIS 20100308 (480)