None of us who woke up in Chicco Ark community expected to shake hands and talk with Pope Francis later that afternoon.
Like a lightning from clear skies
The big news came suddenly, only a few hours before the visit. Such sudden visits are not rare for Pope Francis, as he likes to avoid the “chaos” that could result in a small town like Chiampino.
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I returned from the city center and Silva just finished her afternoon rest, when Leszek, Polish priest who lives with us in the community, gave us some well-intentioned advice that it might be more appropriate to wear something better than shorts and a sports shirt.
A Pope is visiting us in half an hour time
‘Why?’ did I ask him. He replied: ‘Tu non sai? Arriva il Papa tra 30 minuti.’ (You don’t know? A Pope is visiting us in half an hour time.)
When we realized that we will actually meet the Holy Father, we quickly went to change our clothes.
Path, testimony, donation
Pope Francis gives a lot of attention to the poor in his pontificate. In fact, very often he speaks about those three steps, which are also basic building blocks to our Operando society: path, testimony and donations.
Pope regularly visits communities where poor live, he does not exclude prisoners neither. With his visits, he wants to show the people that God is most vividly present also among the ‘smallest’ of us, the burdened, the marginalized and ignored.
Along the way, he emphasizes how important donations are. Donate time to someone who needs a company, to donate a kind word to someone who is used to only receive criticism and blame, donate material goods for people who live in poverty.
What about the present?
Although everybody at the house were trying to spend the afternoon as usuall, we could not hide our excitement. Pope will enter through that doors any time soon! You can imagine.
When I asked Dalila (assistant in our house), what will be our present to the Pope on this occasion, she offered me a completely Ark kind of an answer:
We are his present, isn’t that enough?
She’s right, we are a big present. 🙂
The courtyard was first filled by some police, later came some friends of the Ark, shortly after Monsignor Rino Fisichella arrived, president of the Pontifical Council for the promotion of the new evangelization, and Pope’s closest collaborator, and finally, the Pope himself.
The Holy Father first visited La Vigna, the first house of Ark community. In the meantime, we were waiting in our house playing Uno in the living room. This way we managed to somewhat calm down our boys and girls who were eagerly awaiting the Papa.
Everybody gather around
And finally, he entered through the door. Just as always, with a friendly smile and warm eyes. Rai 1 television cameraman and flash cameras all around ‘man in white’. We joined. Silva by using Leszek’s camera and me taking photos with a mobile phone.
Speaking with a Pope
Those who live in the house all gathered in a small circle, so each one of us was introduced to the Pope by Marco who is responsible for the community.
After we shook hands with him and exchanged a few words, we went together to our workshops.
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‘Workshop’ assistants have presented the Pope our various activities and works performed by our boys and girls each day. I will write more on this in one of the following posts.
In the hallway that leads from the workshops to the chapel and Shalom room, one of the companions asked the Pope if he agrees to go visit our chapel along the way. I was very close and one could barely hear his answer:
‘Of course. I am totally available.’
From up close, it was possible to sense a lot of fatigue and burden carried by this man. I can only imagine how exhausting and tiring his schedule is, to take on the crowd’s pressure at every step and at the same time to maintain the greatest institution in the world. Can that be without God’s presence?
Together with the Pope, we therefore went inside the chapel. He simply sat between us, listened to Ark’s prayers (see the video below), and then addressed us as follows:
Together we have celebrated, forgave one another, so we can now be at peace with ourselves. At this moment, we thank you Lord for being with us. Always being with us. He always likes to go to where the people suffer the most; among the poor. I ask you to pray for the Church and for other people in need of attention and sympathy. In need of compassion that you posses. And now let me bless you.
When Pope Francis said farewell, me and Silva both felt a great confirmation. Not only by the fact that God is very much present in this community but also by the realization that our path is becoming increasingly clear. We felt confirmed that also via Operando, God wants to show His face to people – the face of the merciful Father, the face of a friend and an ally.
God is working – right now! Operando.