Spring couldn’t have gotten off to a better start in Naples, that beautiful and passionate city which welcomed Pope Francis so warmly, as he himself said upon his return to Rome. In the span of roughly 10 hours on the first day of spring, Bergoglio physically touched the most diverse social situations: from his arrival in troubled Scampia to his meeting on the Caracciolo Seafront, illuminated by the soft colours of sunset.
In turn, Neapolitans showed their gratitude for his presence with spontaneous gestures of love: the inmates in Poggioreale who joined the Pope for lunch, the patients at the Gesù Nuovo after praying before the tomb of Giuseppe Moscati, the holy doctor, and even the pizza chefs who managed like acrobats to slip a cheese pizza to the Pope as he was leaving.
Bergoglio found a simple and effective way to speak directly to everyone he met, inserting extensive, off-the-cuff remarks into his prepared speeches and even delivering whole addresses extemporaneously. But at the centre of everything was Jesus. How can we be sure that Jesus is at the centre? Look to the Mother who always points to him, he said. And there are other signs: a spirit of poverty and corporal and spiritual works of mercy, oft-forgotten but still being “carried out by elderly women and simple people in neighbourhood parishes”.
Following the Lord is being on the move, going to Naples and anywhere else in the world, “everyone needs a little more conversion”, as the Pontiff said to the clergy and religious. After blessing the faithful with the relic of St Januarius, he advised them to do three things: adore God, love the Church and be missionaries.
Before leaving, the Pope listened to the hopes and fears of the people of Naples and once again he found just the right words to touch their hearts and ours. God speaks, acts, and sometimes God remains silent, but no matter what God will not fail us. And so we look with trust to the future, “young and old together”, on the first day of Spring.
St. Peter’s Square
Feb. 21, 2019
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