Silent prayer before the Shroud and the commemoration of the lessons of Don Bosco were the primary motives behind Bergoglio’s visit to Turin, the land to which he considers himself a “grandson”. The two days were dense with familiar memories and poignant encounters which were striking not only for the people of Turin and Piedmont: from the historic and unprecedented fraternal meeting with the Waldensians to the meeting with young people; from those with the sick of the Cottolengo, to the Salesian family, to the world of labour. As always, Francis spoke to everyone.
Also as always, the people understood the words of the Pope, his concern over the crisis which continues to prey upon countless people and which is a dilemma “not only in Turin, in Italy”, but which is worldwide and complex, his condemnation of the “piecemeal” war, which accentuates the tragedy of forced migration, which is rendered even more atrocious by cynicism and indifference of far too many. “It brings one to tears seeing the recent spectacle, in which human beings are treated like merchandise”, Francis exclaimed.
To face the widespread dismay, the Pontiff once again pointed to the path of solidarity, which is created first in the family: among the elderly and the young, who are the wealth of memory and the promise of the future. As to how much Bergoglio entrusts to the family was visible in his unplanned and touching visit to the little Church of St Teresa, where his grandparents were married and his father was baptized.
In this place so filled with familiar memories, the Pope, as he did before the Shroud, in the Shrine of the Consolata and then at the Cottolengo, he prayed in silence, consigning to a written dedication his intentions for the upcoming Synod on the Family. He spoke of his family especially at Valdocco , when impromptu he recalled at length his memories of the Salesians and vividly outlined the role that Don Bosco’s followers played in his own human and Christian formation.
During the meeting with young people, the Pontiff drew from his own Piedmontese roots and from the history of the last century. He responded off-the-cuff to their questions, in words which were incisive and — as he emphasized — uncomfortable, when he spoke about chaste love and the need to go against the current in difficult contexts. This is done through faith, in the manner of the Saints of Piedmont in the 1800s; by looking forward without succumbing to the idolatry of money and without looking away from today’s necessities of today, as indeed happened so many times in the 20th century.
The simple and festive meeting at the Waldensian Temple was open to the future. This encounter was also based on Bergoglio’s experiences with “friends of the Waldensian Evangelical Church of the River Plate, from whom” — he said — “I was able to appreciate spirituality and faith, and learn many good things”. It is an ecumenism “on the move”, which already unites, in spited of the differences and which led the Pope to ask forgiveness for unchristian-like and inhuman attitudes and behaviour toward Waldensians, in order to walk together and together witness to the Gospel in the world.
St. Peter’s Square
Feb. 21, 2019
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