By Sarah Delaney
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Anticipating his upcoming visit to Turin, Pope Benedict XVI highlighted the lives of two saints from the northern Italian city who as priests devoted their lives to the care of the people who most needed their help.
The two 19th-century priests were “outstanding for their love of God and their devotion to Christ and the church,” the pope said during the general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
The pope has been devoting his weekly audiences to a series of talks about the unique mission, duties and responsibilities of priests.
He spoke at the April 28 audience about St. Leonard Murialdo, the founder of the Congregation of St. Joseph, and St. Joseph Cottolengo. The pope said the two men were “outstanding examples of charity” for their generosity and energetic dedication to the poor.
St. Leonard, who lived from 1828 to 1900, “saw his priestly vocation as a gracious gift of God’s love,” and devoted much of his life to the care and education of orphans by founding the Congregation of St. Joseph, the pope said.
St. Leonard “encouraged his confreres to unite contemplation and apostolic zeal, and to confirm their preaching by the example of their lives,” he said.
St. Joseph, who lived from 1786 to 1842, set up schools, orphanages, hospitals and other institutions in which he could help the poor and disadvantaged. He founded the Little House of Divine Providence, an organization the pope called “a great charitable outreach which continues today.”
St. Joseph was able to involve many volunteers to help form his family-style communities that helped the most needy, the pope said.
The pope said the two priests lived their ministry “giving their lives totally to the poorest, neediest, and the last … with the profound conviction that it is not possible to practice charity without living in Christ and in the church.”
He said he hoped their example would “continue to inspire and sustain the many priests today who generously devote their lives to God and to the service of our brothers and sisters in need.”
Pope Benedict was scheduled to travel May 2 to see the Shroud of Turin, the cloth that tradition holds to be the burial shroud of Christ. The shroud is on public display for the first time since it underwent restoration in 2002. It was previously shown 10 years ago, when more than one million people lined up to catch a glimpse of the cloth imprinted with the negative image of a man.
At the end of the audience, the pope greeted members of the Pave the Way Foundation, a nonprofit organization that seeks to remove obstacles to interfaith understanding. They were led by Gary Krupp, the Jewish founder of the group who actively supports the cause of sainthood for Pope Pius XII, the wartime pontiff accused by many Jewish groups of failing to speak out against Nazi Germany’s persecution of Jews.
Krupp, reached by telephone, said the group gave the pope a wristwatch with two faces: one showing Rome time and one showing Jerusalem time.
He said the group was made up of rabbi and author Shmuley Boteach; Rabbi Eric Silver of Temple Beth David in Cheshire, Conn.; Rodney Adler, a Jewish businessman from Australia; and David Victor, president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
In their brief meeting with the pope on the steps of St. Peter’s, Krupp said, “the rabbis wanted to express their solidarity with the Roman Catholic Church as it is dealing with the sexual abuse problem.”
The church is facing a widening scandal as more victims of priestly sexual abuse of minors come forward in Europe and the United States. The pope has expressed his shame and dismay and pledged to root out the problem within the church.
“They wanted to let him know they stand with him and know that he has taken major steps to deal with the problem,” Krupp said.
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Editor’s Note: The text of the pope’s audience remarks in English are posted online at: www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20100428_en.html.
The text of the pope’s audience remarks in Spanish are posted online at: www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20100428_sp.html.
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