By Salvatore Cernuzio
Approximately 300 of Rome's poor, homeless, and elderly people, as well as several Ukrainian refugees, attended the traditional Christmas luncheon organized by the Community of St. Egidio in Rome's St. Mary in Trastevere Church.
The event celebrated the 40th anniversary since its launch on 25 December 1982. Over the years, St. Egidio volunteers and workers have served lunch to over 80,000 poor people in Italy and 250,000 around the world.
The guest of honor at this year's luncheon was Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican's Secretary of State, who brought "the greetings and good wishes of Pope Francis."
Speaking to guests, the Cardinal recalled his first visit to the Community's lunch in 2015.
“It is always a wonderful and moving experience to see all these people together celebrating Christmas, something that touches the heart.”
Cardinal Parolin expressed "the wish that these experiences could be repeated and multiplied," because "we have so much need for solidarity and love in our world."
He also explained that "Christmas calls us to this: the only solution to our problems is to be attentive and close to others, especially those who suffer and are in difficulty."
"The Pope gives us this example daily," he said. "We try to follow him in many ways, but we try to make this world of ours a little better."
Sitting next to the Cardinal were Anna and Pamela, a mother and daughter from Aleppo, Syria. They found refuge in Italy thanks to the humanitarian corridors organized by St. Egidio with the Italian Bishops' Conference and the Evangelical Churches.
“War is a very bad thing. We hope they will end soon. St. Egidio saved our lives; our dream was to live in peace.”
The lunch also featured the presence of the Community president, Marco Impagliazzo, who expressed his happiness "to have hosted, in Italy and around the world, thousands of people and to have sat down at the table with them because these are luncheons in which we are unable to tell who serves and who is served."
A message of hope
After a countdown and Christmas greetings, guests were treated to generous portions of lasagna, meatloaf, lentils, and typical Christmas desserts. Guests also received a personalized gift with their names on it, as if in a family.
"This year's event also aims to proclaim a message of hope at a time marked by the crisis and war in Ukraine," explained members of the Community.
Many of this year's guests were Ukrainian refugees, the majority of whom were women with their children who have fled since Russia's invasion intensified on 24 February.