By Vatican News
In the message addressed to “brother priests,” the Pope thanks the Episcopal Conference of Lombardy, which for six years has organized the Day of Prayer and Fraternity with elderly and sick clergy.
“It is beautiful,” Pope Francis says, the attention that is shown to those priests who are physically more fragile.
The Pope expresses his delight that, elderly and sick priests were able to travel with their Bishops to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Caravaggio, despite restrictions due to the coronavirus.
The Shrine is located in the Italy’s Lombardy region and is dedicated to Our Lady of the Fountain.
In the message, Pope Francis thanks his “dear confreres” for their witness of faithful love to God and the Church. “Thank you,” he writes, “for the silent proclamation of the Gospel of life. Thank you because you are a living memory to draw from in order to build the Church’s tomorrow.”
The Pope notes that in recent months, many people have experienced a number of restrictions due to the pandemic. “The days, spent in a limited space, seemed endless and always the same,” he says.
He goes on to say”, we felt the lack of affection from those dear to us, as well as friends; the fear of contagion reminded us of our own vulnerability.” He also points out that many priests got to experience what their elderly brothers are encountering on a daily basis.
Pope Francis expresses the hope “that this period will help us to understand that, much more than occupying space, it is necessary not to waste the time that is given to us; that it will help us to enjoy the beauty of the encounter with the other, to heal from the virus of self-sufficiency.”
“Let us not forget this lesson,” he says.
Quoting from scripture, the Pope says, “also in our priestly life, fragility can be ‘like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap,’ (Mal 3:2) which, raising us up to God, refines and sanctifies us. We are not afraid of suffering: The Lord carries the cross with us.”
Concluding his message, the Pope entrusts sick and elderly priests to the Virgin Mary and remembers in prayer the many priests who have died because of the virus and those who are facing the path of rehabilitation.