· This morning in St Peter’s Basilica ·
“Good morning to you all”. More Vatican employees than ever were packed into St Peter’s Basilica on Wednesday morning, 27 March, when Pope Francis greeted them with these words. They had just been taking part in the annual Mass for paschal communion, celebrated by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, and were expecting him. When Pope Francis arrived at the Altar of the Chair they welcomed him with a burst of applause.
The Cardinal Archpriest of St Peter’s greeted him on everyone’s behalf and then recalled an anecdote of Pope John xxiii, recounted by Archbishop Loris Capovilla in June 1978, during a pilgrimage with seminarians of the Diocese of Massa Marittima-Piombino: Archbishop Capovilla “told us of an episode that seems to me fitting for this moment: he said that on 29 October 1958, the day after the election, seated at table, Pope John was sad, as it were, sick at heart. The Secretary felt somewhat shy, nevertheless at a certain point he asked: ‘but Holy Father, what’s the matter?’. And he answered: ‘I have been deeply humiliated’. ‘What happened?’. ‘Yesterday...’. ‘It was the day of the election, perhaps you felt unworthy?’, ‘No, no... that was the Lord’s will. but you see: after the election I saw all the cardinals coming to profess their obedience, a whole line of them, on their knees they kissed my foot — as was the practice at that time — only think, even Cardinal Elia Della Costa, that holy man whom I consider a saint! I felt so humiliated...’. And I said to him: ‘Fr Loris, these things should be changed. The Church must be bathed in simplicity and humility. It is then that Christ’s light will shine on the Church’s face’”. And Cardinal Comastri concluded, “Holy Father, that is what you are doing”.
Then in responding to his greeting, the Pope too chose to return to Pope Roncalli, recalling a well- known anecdote: to an ambassador’s question as to how many people worked in the Vatican, Pope John xxiii replied wittily: ‘half of them’”. And with a benevolent touch of irony Pope Francis added with a smile, “I am sure that you are the working half. Thank you so much!”.
Then, after referring to the Eucharistic celebration that had just ended, he thanked them for their work in the Vatican, that is “sometimes invisible”, but which “makes progress”. The Pope then remembered all those who were not present: “And I would also like to thank your colleagues, who have been unable to come because of their work, they are working at this moment. Many thanks. I want to thank you for this and to ask you to pray for me: I need your prayers because, like everyone, I am also a sinner. And I want to be faithful to the Lord. Pray for me”. The Pope then concluded by imparting his blessing to everyone present, to their families and to all “those who are dear to you”, and wished them all a Happy Easter.
In his homily at the celebration for Vatican employees, Cardinal Comastri presented the meaning of the story of Our Lord’s Passion. The reason why Jesus submitted to the Passion “is recounted to us in an unquestionably clear way in the account of the Last Supper, which is in fact the account of the first Mass”.
The answer to this question is disarming: Jesus suffered “a terrible Passion in order to immerse in love the river of mud of the human sins of all times: a struggle that only God could face, a struggle that is still at its height”.
Concelebrating with Cardinal Comastri were Archbishop Oscar Rizzato, Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca, Bishop Vittorio Lanzani, Bishop Giorgio Corbellini, as well as 16 priests.
St. Peter’s Square
Oct. 21, 2019
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