Catholic News Agency reports that Pope Benedict made his comments in an address to members of the National Italian Confederation of the "Misericordias."
Thanking the volunteers for their efforts, Pope Benedict warned them not to let their activities become mere activism.
"With your presence and your action, you contribute to the spreading of God's Gospel of love for all mankind," Pope Benedict said.
"The Misericordias," he continued, "are the oldest type of volunteer organisation to have arisen in the world." The group, according to its founder was formed, "to give honour to God with works of mercy towards neighbours, with the utmost anonymity and totally without cost," the Holy Father pointed out.
The Pope also reflected on the important work the group does in preserving the "Christian roots" of Italy and Europe. The Holy Father affirmed that, "the Misericordias are not an ecclesial aggregation, but that its historical roots are unmistakably Christian."
To maintain its roots, the Pope emphasised the need for carrying out "periodical moments of qualification and training, to study evermore the human and Christian motives of our activities."
"The risk," he added, "is that volunteering can be reduced to a simple activism. If instead the spiritual weight remains vital, you can share with others much more than just the material goods they need, you can offer to your neighbour facing difficulties, the gaze of love which he needs."
He also referred to the "educational function", by which the Misericoridas, give life to the noble virtues of fraternity and, "the disinterested assistance of those in the midst of difficulties."
"In particular," the Holy Father concluded, "young people can draw the benefit of the volunteer experience, because if correctly approached, it becomes for them a 'school of life', which helps them to give to their own existence a sense and a purpose which is higher and more profound."
Pope Benedict warns volunteers not to let their work become mere activism (Catholic News Agency, 12/2/07)
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13 Feb 2007