ROME – During a visit to the Italian city of Loreto on Monday, Pope Francis signed a new document dedicated to the youth and called on people to remember the importance of the family for society.
According to tradition, the Nazareth home of the Holy Family was transported to the city of Loreto in the late 13th century.
“God, through Mary, entrusts a mission in our time: to bring the Gospel of peace and life to our contemporaries, often distracted, taken by earthly interests or immersed in a climate of spiritual dryness,” Francis said during his day trip.
According to the pope, there’s a need for “simple and wise people, humble and courageous, poor and generous,” people who “at the school of Mary, accept the Gospel without reserve in their own lives.”
“Thus, through the holiness of the people of God, from this place they will continue to spread in Italy, in Europe and in the world testimonies of holiness in every state of life, to renew the Church and animate society with the leaven of the Kingdom of God,” Francis said.
He also said that seeing the world’s “delicate situation,” the family “founded on marriage between a man and a woman assumes an essential importance and mission.”
“It’s necessary to rediscover the plan drawn by God for the family, to reaffirm its greatness and irreplaceability at the service of life and society,” Francis said, to the cheering of those gathered.
Although the pope celebrated Mass in the Holy House – the first pope to do so in more than 150 years, since Pope Pius IX – he delivered no homily, instead addressing the thousands gathered for the occasion outside the shrine after celebrating the liturgy.
The document the pontiff signed after the Mass is called Christus vivit, or Christ Lives, and follows the Synod of Bishops on young people, that took place in Rome last October.
According to tradition, the house of the Holy Family was flown over by four Angelic beings from Nazareth to Tersatto, Croatia, then to Recanati, before arriving at the current site, where it’s been a pilgrimage site for Catholics since the 14th century.
(Scholars attest that the Angeli family had the house, already shrine in the Holy Land, deconstructed and the brick sent to Italy to be rebuilt.)
As Francis said during his remarks, it’s inside these four walls that Mary allegedly gave her “yes” to the angel when it was announced to her that she’d been chosen as the mother of Christ. It’s no coincidence that the pontiff decided to go to this Marian shrine on March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation.
“The Holy House is the home of the young, because here the Virgin Mary, the young woman full of grace, continues to speak to new generations, accompanying each one in the search for their own vocation,” Francis said. “This is why I wanted to sign here the Apostolic Exhortation that is the fruit of the Synod dedicated to young people.”
In the Annunciation, the pontiff said, the dynamic of vocation is expressed in the three moments that were then marked during last October’s Synod of Bishops: “listening to the Word-proposal of God, discernment, decision.”
Mary’s home, the pope said, is the house of young people, as they can come here to discern their vocation; the house of families, as every family finds here “welcoming, inspiration to live their own identity” and the home of the infirm, many of whom had VIP seating during the Mass.
In the Holy House those who suffer in body or spirit are comforted by the Mother, the pope said, “who brings to all the mercy of the Lord from generation to generation.”
Illness, the pontiff said, hurts the family, but the sick must be welcomed into the family.
Going off the cuff, he said that “we mustn’t fall into the throwaway culture proposed by the multiple ideological colonizations that attack us today.”
“Home and family are the patient’s first care in loving him [or her], supporting him, encouraging him and caring for him,” Francis said. “The Holy House is the symbol of every welcoming house and sanctuary of the sick. From here, I send an affectionate thought to all of them, all over the world, and I tell them: You are at the center of the work of Christ, because each of you more concretely share and carry the cross behind Him.”
“Your suffering can become a decisive collaboration in the coming of the Kingdom of God,” the pope added.
During his visit to Loreto, Pope Francis spent over an hour greeting people in wheelchairs, the members of the pastoral for the hearing impaired and the Capuchin community that runs the shrine. He also asked them to change the opening hours, so that more people can visit the shrine during the day.