Catholic News Service photo
Brazilian Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz.
Catholic News Service photo
Brazilian Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz.
KILLUCAN, Ireland — The head of the Vatican's congregation that  deals with the world's Religious paid tribute to the Camillian Fathers' commitment to caring for the sick and the elderly over the past 400 years.

Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, head of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, said July 13 that his two-day visit was to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of St. Camillus de Lellis. He also met privately with 60 superiors of religious orders July 12.

After celebrating Mass at the Camillian provincial headquarters in Killucan, Cardinal Aviz met elderly and sick residents at the nursing home run by the order. The cardinal was accompanied by his secretary,  Italian Camillian Father Donato Cauzzo.

In his homily at the Mass, the cardinal reminded people, "We are called  to give our personal services to others in the community."

"I have met sons of Camillus who give their lives to care for others. In doing so, they serve the Lord -- this is the service to the widows, the orphans, the stranger but above all to the sick," he said.

Camillian Father Stephen Foster, the order's Anglo-Irish provincial, told Catholic News Service that St. Camillus' life story shows that anybody can become a saint.

"Looking at his earlier life, you would never have believed that a man of such violence, a mercenary soldier who would fight for anybody who gave him money, would actually become the patron saint of the sick and the suffering," he said.

During Mass in Mullingar July 12, Cardinal Aviz acknowledged that many of the Irish church's 9,000 religious have suffered in recent years because of revelations about sexual and physical abuse in the church; he urged them not to be afraid but to place their trust in God.

He asked the congregation "to pray for all the religious of Ireland, thanking God for all they have done in the history of your country; that they would be able to live their calling with great compassion."

He added: "Even if parts of the church here in Ireland have suffered in some way -- don't be afraid. All of us need purification. All of us need to allow the Gospel to shine through us that bit more."

Capuchin Father Peter Rodgers, director general of the Conference of Religious of Ireland, told Catholic News Service that religious who attended the meeting with the cardinal in Swords, just north of Dublin, described him as "very affirming and encouraging about religious life in  Ireland."

He said the cardinal spoke to them of the importance of religious life as a gift to the church and of the need for ongoing renewal. He also encouraged the religious to reflect on the meaning of their lives as religious and to deepen their commitment to Gospel living, especially during the Year for Consecrated Life, which will begin Nov. 30.

Father Rodgers said the Brazilian cardinal noted that while religious life was growing and strengthening in Asia, Africa and Latin America, it was a matter of some concern that the opposite was the case in the Western world.