Helping the sick and needy is a pillar of Pope Francis' pontificate. Usually it's the Pope who tells them a few words of encouragement, but this time things started off the other way around.
"Dear Pope Francis, our heart says: Thank you for the strength you give us through your words and actions. You've reminded us over and over that we are a gift to the Church.”
Moved, the Pope hugged the man after he gave his testimony. He was one of 5,000 men and women from the Apostolate of the Suffering and from the Silent Workers of the Cross. They, along with their friends and family, filled the Vatican's Paul VI Hall.
"Jesus doesn't pretend that an unfortunate and burdensome condition in life is a happy situation. Suffering is not a virtue in itself, but rather a reality that Jesus teaches us to live with, with the right attitude.”
The Pope explained that Jesus also suffered, and in the process became an example of how to accept pain with faith and hope.
"There are in fact, right ways and wrong ways to live pain and suffering, A wrong attitude is to live pain in a passive manner, letting go with inertia and resignation. Even the reaction of rebellion and rejection is not a correct attitude.”
The sick are a gift to the Church, said the Pope, because they have the ability to inspire change in those who surround them.
"A sick person, a disabled person can become a source of support and light for other people who suffer, and in doing so, they can transform their environment.”
The two associations that took part in the gathering were founded by Italian priest, Luigi Novarese. He was beatified about a year ago, on May 11th, 2013. The charism of his works were based on the role the sick play in supporting the mission of the Church.