Chiara and Pope Francis

(Chiara Amirante's words opening Pope Francis' visit at Frosinone's Heaven Citadel on September 24th 2019)

Holy Father, we have no words to describe how thankful we are for your visit here at the Heaven Citadel. It was an unexpected and incredible surprise, a huge gift for the whole New Horizons family. It truly is a Joy for all of us.

As you know, the New Horizons community was born with the desire to bring Joy to as many people as possible focusing on those who live in the “hell” of situations of great distress that characterise young people.

Into the streets' hell

When I started going out into the streets at night to listen to the cry of the people of the night, I would have never imagined I would meet so many people begging for love and disfigured in the depth of their hearts. They were young people imprisoned by drug addictions, alcohol, prostitution, marginalisation, deviation, desperation, and many new addictions. I tried to tiptoe in their stories, I gathered up their tears and that cry has pierced my heart.

I thought it was an impossible challenge to rekindle hope, to do something and to give answers in front of so many tragic and dramatic situations. However, since the first few days into the street I had one certainty: Love is stronger, Love has won over death! Only the encounter with the Risen Christ – with the Person who came to bind up the broken-hearted, to restore sight to the blind, to declare freedom for the captives … would bring life back and snatch out of hell all those brothers and sisters that I was meeting every night in the streets.

The death of the soul

I discovered that the true evil that all these desperate brothers shared was the ‘death of the soul’ (For the wages of sin is death Romans 6, 23). They were young, but dead inside. After telling me their stories of violence, abandonment and desperation, most of them asked me what a young girl like me was doing in such dangerous areas. I started sharing with them the story of how the discovery of the love of God changed my life. The most common request at the end of every meeting was always the same: “Chiara, get us out of this hell! We want to encounter the Jesus that made you risk your life for us. We want to experience the full Joy that you found with Him”. I was in Rome, in the heart of Christianity and I could not find a place where to bring them despite I had a list of all the hostels, reception centres and soup kitchen of the city.

New Horizons

Fully abandoned to Divine Providence and with God’s help, in 1994 I started the first New Horizons community, a simple reception centre based on the Gospel. What made me want to get out into the streets at night was the discovery that in the words of the One who created us there are the answers to the deepest needs of our hearts. Living the Gospel, I experienced a fullness of peace, of life and of joy that nothing and nobody could take from me and I wanted to share it with the most desperate. Their answer to my proposal of living the Gospel together was beyond what I could have ever imagined. Since the very beginning, after experiencing the resurrection and thanks to the discovery of the Love of God, they wanted to go with me into the streets, into the squares, in the most dangerous areas of the city, in the schools and in youth centres… to testify the Joy of meeting the risen Christ to as many young people as possible. In a few years, thousands of young people got out of terrible tunnels following a programme of self-knowledge and healing of the hearth based on the Gospel. They became witnesses of the love of God to their peers and they committed themselves to solidarity projects.

More than 700,000 people decided to commit themselves as Knights of the Light to testify the fullness of Joy in the Risen Christ and live the Gospel radically in order to bring the Love revolution to the world. Thanks to the work of the people that were welcomed into the community, the number of centres and solidarity initiatives have been growing rapidly over the years. There are now: 228 centres for the reception and training, listening centres, spirituality centres and foster homes… There are also 6 Heaven Citadels in Italy and abroad. These are little villages where everyone who feels lonely, outcast or desperate can feel welcome, supported and loved. They also offer the opportunity to train in order to volunteer internationally and create new centres for the reception, support and training of people all over the world and any kind of solidarity activity. The number of teams of volunteers has increased as well. They operate in the areas of reception, support and training; evangelisation; prevention; communication and mass media; entertainment; cultural promotion and publishing; international cooperation and social services; spirituality and prayer; economy and work; harmony and artistic expression… At present, there are more than 1,000volunteers.

An invisible third world war

This allows us to constantly meet thousands of young people. From one side, it is a great joy to see so many of them get out of infernal tunnels and contemplate the resurrection miracles that the Love of God makes every day. One the other side, however, we see first-hand that the cry of the people of the night is mostly unheard and that the new poverties are a real emergency that claims millions of invisible victims and that most people are unaware of it. We observed that 85% of the young people that we met, not only in the streets, but also in schools in affluent neighbourhoods, live in situation of deep distress: they use and abuse alcohol and drugs, they have problems with anorexia, bulimia, depression, compulsive gambling, internet-addiction, bullying and abuses. Sex addiction, which nobody talks about, affects more and more people with terrible consequences. Just think about the spread of sexual slavery, of paedophilia and abortions. According to the WHO there are 56 million abortions every year (and as many women with permanent wounds in their hearts). It is estimated that 55 million people died during World War II. Official data shows that approximately 250 million children are forced into sexual intercourses every year(sourceUNICEF). Also 29% of people claim to have been victims of sexual abuseduring their childhood. (Source United Nations). These are only few of the numerous data that highlights how we are truly living an invisible third world war. It is dramatic and devastating. Therefore, we feel an urge stronger than ever to do everything that we can to answer the unheard cry of many people.

From death to life

During this meeting with you, Holy Father, we would like to share with you some of our stories of ‘death and resurrection’. They are representative of many young people that knock at the doors of our hearts every day. We would also like to ask you a few questions to receive valuable suggestions that would help us to commit ourselves to responding to these new poverties that are a real emergency. We would like to commit with all our heart, soul and strength to creating, together with any person of good will, the Civilisation of Love, a society renewed by the power of solidarity, of cooperation, of sharing and universal brotherhood. Not doing everything that we can to contribute to the human family who is running towards self-destruction would be a sin, a failure to rescue for all of us!

Thank you very much! Thank you, Holy Father, for being a great gift for all of us and thank you for being a beacon of light for the whole Church and for humanity.