Pope: Church and Society Need the Handicapped

Greets Groups Dedicated to Helping the Sick

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 19, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Faith and Christian friendship enable people to live with sickness and human fragility, Benedict XVI told two groups dedicated to caring for the ill and handicapped.



The Pope said this on Saturday to the participants in the pilgrimages promoted by the Federation for Transport of the Sick of Lourdes (OFTAL) and the Apostolic Movement for the Blind.

The Holy Father told the groups: "Dear brothers and sisters, the Church needs your contribution as well, to answer fully and faithfully to the Lord's will. The same can be said about civil society: Humanity needs your gifts, which are prophesies of the Kingdom of God.

"Do not fear the limitations and the poverty of resources: God loves to achieve his work through poor instruments. However, he asks for generous faith."

The Pontiff traced the origins of the two groups and then praised them as an "experience of brotherly sharing, based on the Gospel," which testifies to "faith and Christian friendship that allow bearing together any condition of fragility."

He continued: "Each of these associations contributes to building the Church with its own charism. You, friends of OFTAL, offer the experience of pilgrimage with the sick, a sign full of faith and solidarity among persons that forget about themselves and their own problems in order to go forth toward a common destination, a spiritual place: Lourdes, the Holy Land, Loreto, Fatima and other sanctuaries.

"This is how you help the People of God to maintain the awareness that we are pilgrims following the path of Christ."

Benedict XVI told the visitors associated with the Apostolic Movement for the Blind that theirs is "a witness of how Christian love allows overcoming handicaps and to live differences in a positive way, as an occasion for openness towards all, care for their problems, but above all their gifts, and mutual service."

OFTAL was officially founded in 1932 by a priest from the Italian diocese of Vercelli. The Apostolic Movement for the Blind is a nongovernmental organization of lay people founded in 1928 by a blind teacher from Monza and approved by Pope John XXIII.