Thursday, March 13, 2014

One Year with Pope Francis, a Salesian Pope

One Year with Pope Francis,
a Salesian Pope

This item, posted this morning by ANS, has been slightly edited by your humble blogger.
Visiting the Salesian parish of the Sacred Heart in Rome in January,
Pope Francis is greeted by the faithful--and also by non-Christian beneficiaries
of the Salesians' ministry to immigrants in the parish.
March 13 marked the first anniversary of the election of Pope Francis. It’s been a very full year. Pope Francis has provided many good ideas and examples that are valid for everyone, but especially for those who spend their lives working for the salvation of youth. This “pro-Salesian Jesuit,” as he says he was once described, has been for all of us an excellent source of inspiration.

People who knew him well in Argentina were aware that he was a great devotee of Mary Help of Christians and a fan of San Lorenzo de Almagro—the soccer team founded by Fr. Lorenzo Massa, SDB; that in his youth he studied for two years at a Salesian school; and that he had great admiration for the Salesian missionaries in Patagonia (“I see in them the story of a fruitful life”) and devotion to Blessed Ceferino Namuncurá and Blessed Artemides Zatti. All this became public knowledge shortly after his election as Pope.

What we may not have expected was that even as Pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio would continue to show gestures and expressions of esteem toward Don Bosco and his spiritual heirs. Yet he has done so right from the beginning. Just eight days after his election, he welcomed the Rector Major and his vicar with great cordiality when they paid a private visit. A week later when he had lunch with some Roman priests, two of his seven invited guests were Salesians—Frs. Maurizio Verlezza and Antonio Petrosino.

As other Popes had traditionally done on the feast of the Assumption of Mary, Pope Francis celebrated Mass at Castel Gandolfo (even tho he wasn’t staying there for the summer, which most Popes do), and as usual he met the Salesian community that serves the parish church of St. Thomas of Villanova. Then on Jan. 19 this year the Pope paid a pastoral visit to the Salesian parish of the Sacred Heart in Rome. Even though it is located in the center of the city (across the street from the city’s main train and bus depot), it is a parish that serves many people who are seriously marginalized. 

Meetings are not the only thing that matters. It’s above all in his words and gestures that we can see Pope Francis’s Salesian style, starting with his first words from St. Peter’s balcony on March 13: “Buona sera.” Think also of the expression “fate casino” (kick up a racket, create a stir) that he addressed to young people on World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, or his constant advice to young people not to let anyone steal their hope, or the affectionate, grandfatherly attitude that he always shows to small children, especially if they happen to be sick.

Words and gestures like these reveal to the world the spirit of Don Bosco: “It’s enough that you are young for me to love you very much.”

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