By Elizabeth Celi, Rotary Club of Rome International
The audience at the Papal Jubilee, though buzzing with excitement, excuded serenity. Despite a sea of thousands of people right behind us in St Peter’s Square, I sensed a palpable feeling of tranquillity. We were positioned up close to Pope Francis’ outdoor podium with the sun shining and the soothing sound of water surging through two magnificent stone fountains on either side of us.
As a member of Rotary for eight years in Melbourne, Australia, and now in the Rotary Club of Rome International, I was delighted to attend this event which focused on stories of extending a hand to help our fellow human beings, especially refugees. The experience was humbling. Before Pope Francis greeted us, we listened to several members of the Italian armed forces and emergency service personnel share accounts of helping save lives.
A 16 year old shared the story his parents relayed to him, when he was old enough to understand, about the day he needed emergency cardiac attention when he was just 17 days old. He stood next to an aeronautical emergency service worker who represented the very organization that ensured his safe, emergency transport from remote southern Italy. One action nearly 16 years ago connected these two “strangers,” and enabled his story to be told.
This message was gently, yet powerfully extended in Pope Francis’ homily, one that spoke about not interfering with those who are pursuing their passions to do good.
As a Rotarian, I was reminded by the Jubilee of why I do what I do as a member of my club. I’m not disadvantaged, I don’t suffer from oppression, yet I was enormously uplifted by hearing the many acts of care. Imagine how an extended hand of mercy could benefit refugees who have had their homes ripped from their grasp, their dignity compromised, and their resources to build a future taken from them.
Rotary enhances my ability to extend a hand of mercy and support toward my fellow human beings. Perhaps this will be a story the recipients of that mercy can share 16 years from now!
About the author: Elizabeth Celi has a PhD in psychiatry from the University of Melbourne, and is a psychologist, author, and travel writer. She is a past president of the Rotary Club of Mt. Martha, Australia, and serves as project chair and Foundation chair for the Rotary Club of Rome-International.