By Vatican News staff writer
Pope Francis has penned a letter to show his closeness to the Piccola Casa della Misericordia (“Little House of Mercy”) in Gela, Sicily, and to encourage those who spend themselves there every day without reserve.
Noting that the House was built to assist “those suffering from hardship and precariousness,” the Pope said:
The work of being close to loved ones who are in difficult conditions is a beacon of light and of hope in the darkness of suffering and resignation. It is an appreciated sign of the Church’s sharing in the hardships and burdens of its own people; it is an admirable example of evangelical charity, and of the Church “going forth” [“Chiesa in uscita”], which is so good for both the ecclesial and the civil community.
Inspired by Pope Francis
The impetus for the “Little House of Mercy” came from Pope Francis himself. In 2013, at the beginning of the papacy, a young priest from Piazza Amerina, Fr Pasqualino Di Dio, was granted an audience with the new Pope. Father Di Dio spoke with the Holy Father about the social realities in his diocese, and especially the difficulties faced by many families in his own city of Gela.
Pope Francis suggested the foundation of a House that would be a sign of God’s mercy. Now, seven years later, the Little House of Mercy includes a canteen, a centre for listening and accompaniment, and a food bank. Volunteers provide counselling, family mediation services and school assistance to children, working in partnership the Caritas aid organisation, and with local parishes, institutions, and associations. With the collaboration of the “Raphael” Social Cooperative, the Little House of Mercy also operates a medical clinic, a dormitory, a store, and workshops for sewing, carpentry and ceramics.
Bearing witness to the tenderness and mercy of the Father
In his letter, addressed to Fr Di Dio, Pope Francis writes, “I encourage you, and all those who collaborate in your projects for good, to persevere in your praiseworthy mission of bearing witness to the tenderness and mercy of the Father, offering sharing and solidarity to the weakest most discouraged.”
Father Di Dio, for his part, sees Pope Francis’ words as “a sign of the Pope’s affection, and also a confirmation for the work that so many men and women of good will are doing in silence in the service of the little ones of the Gospel.” He describes the work of volunteers and benefactors of the Little House as “a dream of love, especially during this time of confusion and suffering largely caused by the pandemic.”
The Eucharist at the heart of the work
“All the services undertaken in our Centre have their fulcrum in Eucharistic adoration,” explains Fr Di Dio. “This is where strength and Providence come from.” He adds:
We are called in this difficult time to turn our attention to the weakest and most vulnerable, without being dominated by the culture of waste [“cultura dello scarto”] and suspicion, which must be replaced by the promotion and safeguarding of the other, certain that life is possessed only when it is given away, and that the Lord does not abandon us.