VATICAN CITY, MAR 17, 2007 (VIS) - In the Vatican Basilica at midday today, the Pope received participants in a pilgrimage promoted by OFTAL (Federated Work for the Transportation of the Sick to Lourdes) and by MAC (Apostolic Movement for the Blind).
Both OFTAL, officially founded in 1932, and MAC, the origins of which date back to 1928, "represent experiences of fraternal unity, based on the Gospel and capable of making people in difficulty (in this case the sick and the blind) full participants in the life of the ecclesial community, and builders of a civilization of love."
Benedict XVI recalled how Fr. Alessandro Rastelli, founder of OFTAL, had travelled to Lourdes after suffering an accident. "The experience of his illness made him particularly sensitive to the message of Mary Immaculate, who called him to return to the Grotto of Massabielle, initially in the company of just one sick person - and this is highly significant - and subsequently at the head of a diocesan pilgrimage with more than 300 people, 30 of them sick."
Maria Motta, blind since birth, founder of MAC, "was an apostle of the sightless," said the Pope. "From the spiritual 'network' she formed there grew an association, made up of diocesan groups from all over Italy and approved by Blessed John XXIII with the name of the Apostolic Movement for the Blind."
The members of OFTAL, with "their experience of pilgrimage with the sick," show "a strong sign of faith and solidarity between people" said Pope Benedict, "ignoring their own cares and problems to start out towards a shared goal, a place of the spirit: Lourdes, the Holy Land, Fatima and other shrines."
He described the members of MAC as "bearers of your own special experience, that of walking together, side by side, the sightless and the sighted. This is a testimony of how Christian love enables handicaps to be overcome, and of how to live diversity in a positive way as an opportunity to open up to others, attentive to their problems but above all to their gifts."
"The Church," the Pope concluded, "also needs your contribution in order to be able to respond fully and faithfully to the will of the Lord. And the same can be said of civil society: humanity needs your gifts, which are a prophecy of the Kingdom of God. Do not be frightened by the limits and scarcity of resources, God loves to achieve His work with poor means.
AC/.../ BLIND ASSOCIATIONSVIS 070320 (420)