On Saturday His Holiness Pope Francis made a pastoral visit travelling to the Italian region of Calabria. The region, the southernmost point of mainland Italy, is the center of Mafioso-related activity and crime, which prompted the Holy Father to visit. After landing, the pope began his visit by meeting with prisoners at a local penitentiary. Speaking to them, he said that while those in prison must always be treated with human dignity, it is also critical that the system do everything to try and reintegrate them into society. If this is not done Francis said, it does harm to both the prisoner and to society as a whole. He said that full and total reintegration includes an encounter with God, allowing him to look upon us, something far more difficult than simply seeking him out. Francis said God is the master of reintegration, forgiving us, always with us and always understanding.
From there, the Holy Father visited a hospice for palliative care patients before heading to a meeting with the priests at the Cathedral of the local diocese of Cassano all'Jonio. Arriving around noon, Francis took time to meet and greet with all of the priests who had come to hear him speak. Addressing them, he said how much he desired to meet them, those who bear the daily weight of parish work. He spoke of the joy of priesthood, of having been called, saying they must not simply be employees or put up screens around them. Francis told the priests they must be open channels through which God’s love and grace flow. He also spoke to them of the choice of fraternity, that it must be present in their lives to avoid individualism, but emphasized that it must be a choice. He lastly encouraged them in their ministry with families, saying that it is evermore important today given the challenged they face.
Later in the day Pope Francis celebrated an open-air mass for some 200,000 people on the plains of the small town of Sibari. The Holy Father arrived among the enormous crowds under a hot sun with temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius. At the request of the local bishop, those with illnesses and disabilities were seated in the areas closest to the altar. They were specifically seated there in place of dignitaries, something the bishop went out of his way to underline. In his sermon, Pope Francis spoke out vocally against organized crime, a problem that has plagued the region for years. In fact, many saw two recent high-profile homicides as the impetus for the pope’s trip: the first a priest, Father Lazzaro Longobardi and the second, a three year-old boy who was an innocent victim of a mafia hit. Francis said that when one does not adore the Lord, one becomes an evildoer. He said this was the case in Calabria where the mafia has an adoration of evil and contempt of the common good. He said it must be fought and expelled. The Holy Father made clear: “Those who in their lives have taken this evil road, this road of evil, such as the mobsters, they are not in communion with God, they are excommunicated.” He said that he encourages all to witness practical solidarity with others, especially those who most need justice, hope and tenderness. Thank God, there are many signs of hope in your families, parishes, associations and ecclesial movements. The Lord Jesus does not cease to inspire acts of charity in his people who journey!”
After returning to Rome Saturday, His Holiness gave his weekly Angelus address Sunday at noon from the Apostolic Palace high above St. Peter’s Square. Speaking to the many tens of thousands gathered, he told them God’s love is without limit. Focusing on the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, he said Jesus did not come into this world to give something, but to give himself, his life as nourishment for all those who have faith in Him.” He said every time we receive communion “the presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit acts in us, shapes our heart.” Francis left the crowds with two points to meditate on: that the love of God is immeasurable and that by following Christ, we – with the Eucharist – make our life a gift.
Finally today, the Diocese of Peterborough has a new bishop. Today in the Cathedral of St-Peter-in-Chains, His Excellency Bishop William McGrattan was installed as the 12th bishop of the diocese. Succeeding His Excellency Bishop Nicola Di Angelis, Bishop McGrattan takes over after having served as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Toronto. Tomorrow on Perspectives we will have full coverage of Bishop McGrattan’s installation in Peterborough.