Pope Mourns "Apostle of Charity"

Founder of John XXIII Community Dies at 82

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 2, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI called the founder of the John XXIII Community, known for its work to help the most marginalized in the society, a "priest of Christ, humble and poor."



The Pope said this today upon hearing of the death of Father Oreste Benzi. The priest died early this morning of a heart attack in his home in Rimini, Italy. He was 82.

In a message of condolence, sent through Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope's secretary of state, the Pontiff recalled the "intense pastoral life" Father Benzi led as a parish priest in Rimini.

The Holy Father also highlighted the priest's contribution as an "untiring apostle of charity, who worked for the neediest and defenseless, taking upon himself the weight of the grave social problems that afflict the contemporary world."

The note concluded with the Benedict XVI's assurance that he will pray so that the death of Father Benzi be a reason of Christian hope for the priest's "entire spiritual family."

Father Benzi founded the Pope John XXIII Community in 1968. The community’s work has led to the establishment of numerous family hostels, which seek to help the mentally and physically disabled, children in need, and former drug addicts and alcoholics.

The community also runs detox centers for drug addicts, facilities for street children and hostels for girls freed from prostitution. Present in 14 of Italy's regions, its presence in the world has expanded through projects or partnerships with local organizations to 20 countries.