Vatican City, Sep 28, 2020 / 05:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis encouraged a religious order Sunday to continue promoting devotion to St. Michael the Archangel.
In a message released Sept. 27, the pope congratulated members of the Congregation of St. Michael the Archangel on the forthcoming centenary of their approval by Church authorities.
“I hope that your Religious Family can continue to spread the apostolate of St. Michael the Archangel, mighty victor over the powers of evil, seeing in this a great work of mercy for the soul and body,” he said in a message dated July 29 and addressed to Fr. Dariusz Wilk, the congregation’s superior general.
The Polish Blessed Bronisław Markiewicz founded the congregation, also known as the Michaelite Fathers, in 1897. He wanted to spread devotion to the archangel, while following the teachings of St. John Bosco, founder of the Salesians, which he had joined 10 years earlier.
The pope noted that Markiewicz died in 1912, almost a decade before the institute was officially approved by Archbishop Adam Stefan Sapieha of Kraków on September 29, 1921.
He praised the order’s members for living out the founder’s spiritual legacy, while “adapting it wisely to reality and to new pastoral demands.” He recalled that two of them — Blessed Władysław Błądziński and Adalbert Nierychlewski — were among the Polish martyrs of World War II.
“Your charism, as current as ever, is characterized by your concern for poor children, orphaned and abandoned, not wanted by anyone and often considered the discarded of society,” he said.
He encouraged them to hold fast to the order’s motto, “who is like God?” — the Hebrew meaning of “Michael” — which he described as “the victorious cry of St. Michael the Archangel … which preserves man from selfishness.”
This was not the first time that Pope Francis has highlighted devotion to the archangel. In July 2013, he consecrated the Vatican to the protection of St. Michael and St. Joseph, in the presence of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
“In consecrating Vatican City State to St. Michael the Archangel, I ask him to defend us from the evil one and banish him,” he said, after blessing a statue of the archangel in the Vatican Gardens.
The pope’s message to the Michaelite Fathers was issued the day after he celebrated Mass for the Gendarmerie Corps of Vatican City State, marking the feast of St. Michael, patron and protector of the body that oversees security at the Vatican, which falls on Sept. 29.
The saint is also patron of the Polizia di Stato, the Italian national civil state police, which operates in and around St. Peter’s Square.
In an off-the-cuff homily at the Mass, celebrated at St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis thanked members of the gendarmerie for their service.
He said: “In service one is never wrong, because service is love, it is charity, it is closeness. Service is the way that God chose in Jesus Christ to forgive us, to convert us. Thank you for this service of yours, and go on, always with this humble, but strong closeness that Jesus Christ taught us.”
On Monday, the pope met members of the Inspectorate of Public Security at the Vatican, a branch of the Polizia di Stato responsible for the protection of the pope when he visits Italian territory, as well as overseeing St. Peter’s Square.
The meeting marked the inspectorate’s 75th anniversary. The pope observed that the body was founded in 1945 amid a “national emergency” in Italy following Nazi occupation.
“Thank you so much for your valuable service, characterized by diligence, professionalism, and a spirit of sacrifice,” the pope said. “Above all, I admire the patience you exercise in having to deal with people from different backgrounds and cultures and — I dare say — in dealing with the priests!”
He continued: “My gratitude also extends to your commitment to accompany me during the trips to Rome and visits to dioceses or communities in Italy. A difficult job, which requires discretion and balance, so that the pope’s itineraries do not lose their specific character of a meeting with the People of God.”
He concluded: “May the Lord reward you as only He knows how. May your patron saint, St. Michael the Archangel, protect you and the Blessed Virgin watch over you and your families. And may my blessing also accompany you.”