Pastoral Visit of the Holy Father to Carpi
Holy Mass in Piazza Martiri
On Sunday April 2, 2017 the Holy Father departed by helicopter from the Vatican airport for his pastoral visit to Carpi.
Upon arrival at the “Dorando Pietro” rugby field, the Pope was received by the Bishop of Carpi, His Excellency Msgr. Francesco Cavina, the President of the Emilia-Romagna region, Hon. Stefano Bonaccini, the prefect of Modena, Maria Patrizia Paba and the Mayor of Carpi, Alberto Bellelli, who gave the Holy Father a brick from the Fossoli Concentration Camp
The Holy Father then transferred by Popemobile to Piazza Martiri where, at 10:30, he presided at the Eucharistic celebration.
At the end of Mass, the Bishop Francesco Cavina, addressed some words of thanks to the Pope.
Following the Gospel, Pope Francis gave the following homily:
Today’s readings speak of the God of life Who conquers death. Let us dwell, in particular, on the last of the miraculous signs wrought by Jesus before His Passover, at the tomb of His friend, Lazarus.
There, it seems that everything is over: the tomb is closed by a large stone, and around there is only weeping and desolation. Even Jesus is shaken by the dramatic mystery of the loss of a loved one: “He is deeply moved” and “greatly troubled” (Jn 11:33). Then He “wept” (v. 35) and went to the tomb, the Gospel says, “once more, deeply moved” (v. 38). And this is the heart of God: far from evil, but close to those who suffer; He does not make evil disappear magically, but sharing in suffering, He adopts and transforms it, abiding in it.
We note however, that amid the general desolation over the death of Lazarus, Jesus does not allow Himself to be carried away by distress. Although He suffers Himself, He calls for steadfast belief; not closed up in tears, but, moved, He sets out towards the tomb. He does not allow Himself to be caught up in the emotional atmosphere of resignation that surrounds Him, but prays trustfully and says, “Father, I thank you” (v. 41). Thus, in the mystery of suffering, before which rationality and progress are crushed like flies on a glass pane, Jesus offers us an example of how to behave: not to escape from suffering, which belongs to this life, but not to allow oneself to be imprisoned by pessimism.
Around the tomb, there is a great encounter and clash. On one side, there is great disappointment, the precariousness of our mortal life that, infused with anguish at death, often experiences defeat, an inner darkness that appears insurmountable. Our soul, created for life, suffers from feeling that its thirst for eternal good is oppressed by an ancient and obscure evil. On the one hand, there is this defeat of the tomb. But on the other, there is the hope that overcomes death and evil and that has a name: hope is called Jesus. He does not bring a little well-being or some remedy to prolong life, but proclaims, “I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in me, though he die, shall live” (v. 25). He therefore says decisively: “Take away the stone” (v. 39) and to Lazarus He calls loudly: “Come out!” (v. 43).
Dear brothers and sisters, we too, are invited to decide which side to take. You can stand on the side of the tomb or the side of Jesus. There are those who are closed in by sadness and those who are open to hope. There are those who are still trapped in the rubble of life and those who, like you, with the help of God, rise up from the rubble and rebuild with patient hope.
Faced with the great “why” of life, we have two options: to sit back and look with melancholy on the tombs of yesterday and today, or to bring Jesus to our tombs. Yes, because each of us already has a small tomb, an area that is a bit “dead” inside the heart: a wound, an wrong suffered or committed, a bitterness that gives no respite, a remorse that returns repeatedly, a sin that it is difficult to overcome. Let us identify these, our little tombs, and invite Jesus there. It is strange, but often we prefer to be alone in the dark caves we have inside, instead of inviting Jesus; we are tempted to always look to ourselves, brooding and anguished, licking our wounds, rather than go to Him, He Who says, “Come to me you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28 ). Let us not be imprisoned by the temptation of staying alone and disheartened, of feeling sorry for ourselves, for what happens to us; let us not yield to the pointless and inconclusive logic of fear, resigned to repeat that everything is wrong and nothing is like it used to be. This is the atmosphere of the tomb; the Lord wants to instead to open up the way of life, that of the encounter with Him, of trust in Him, of the resurrection of the heart, the way that says “Get up! Get up, come out!” That is what the Lord asks of us, and He is next to us as we do it.
We feel the words of Jesus to Lazarus addressed to each of us: “Come out!”; come out of the gridlock of sadness without hope; loosen the bonds of fear that obstruct the path, the fetters of weakness and apprehension that block you, repeat that God unties knots. Following Jesus we learn not to tie up our lives around problems that become tangled: there will always be problems, always, and when we solve one, another one promptly arrives. We can, however, find a new stability, and this stability is Jesus, this stability is called Jesus, Who is the resurrection and life. With Him joy abides in the heart, hope is reborn, pain becomes peace, fear becomes trust, and hardships become offerings of love. And even though there will be no lack of burdens, there will always be the hand that lifts us up, His Word that encourages and tells all of us, every one of us: “Come out! Come to me!”. He says to all of us, “Do not be afraid”.
To us too, today as before, Jesus says, “Take away the stone!”. However heavy the past may be, however great the sin or strong the shame, let us never bar entry to the Lord. Let us remove from before Him that stone that prevents Him from entering: this is the right time to remove our sin, our attachment to worldly vanities, the pride that blocks the soul, all the iniquities between us, in families. This is the right moment to remove all these things.
Visited and freed by Jesus, let us ask the grace of being witnesses of life in this world that thirsts for it so much, witnesses who inspire and revive the hope of God in weary hearts burdened with sadness. Our proclamation is the joy of the living Lord, Who continues to say today, as to Ezekiel, “Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people” (Ez. 37:12).
Angelus prayer and blessing of the first stones of the four new buildings of the Diocese of Carpi.
At the end of Mass in Piazza Martiri in Carpi, before reciting the Marian Angelus prayer, the Holy Father Francis expressed his closeness to the inhabitants of the city of Mocoa in Colombia, devastated by a landslide that has claimed numerous victims.
The Pope then made an appeal for peace in the Kasai region, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and finally urged prayer for the difficult situations in Venezuela and in Paraguay.
At the end of the Angelus, the four first stones for the parish of Sant’Agata in Carpi, the House of Spiritual Exercises in Novi, the Citadel of Charity of Carpi and the multipurpose facility of San Martino Corona in Mirandola were presented to the Pope for his blessing.
The following are the Pope’s appeals and his introduction to the Marian prayer:
Appeals of the Holy Father
I am deeply saddened by the tragedy that has struck Colombia, where a gigantic mudslide caused by torrential rains, hit the city of Mocoa, causing numerous deaths and injuries. I pray for the victims and assure you of my and your closeness to those who mourn the death of their loved ones, and I thank all those who are working to bring relief.
There continue to be reports of bloody armed clashes in the region of Kasai in the Democratic Republic of Congo, clashes which are claiming victims and causing displacement, and which also affect people and property of the Church: churches, hospitals and schools. I assure you of my closeness to this nation, and I urge you all to pray for peace so that the hearts of those responsible for such crimes do not remain slaves to hatred and violence, as hatred and violence always destroy.
In addition, I follow with great attention to what is happening in Venezuela and Paraguay. I pray for those populations, which are very dear to me, and I urge everyone to persevere tirelessly, avoiding any form of violence, in the search for political solutions.
The Holy Father’s words before the Angelus prayer
Dear brothers and sisters,
I would like to thank you for coming here, to this Mass. I want to thank all those who worked for this double “marathon”: last Sunday [for the inauguration of the restored Cathedral] and this. Thank you very much! And I want to thank you, the sick. There are 4,500 sick people here! Thank you: with your sufferings you help the Church, you help to carry the cross of Christ. Thank you! Many thanks to you!
And at the end of this celebration, our thoughts turn to the Blessed Virgin, whom you venerate in the cathedral church dedicated to her. To Mary we offer our joys, our sorrows and our hopes. We ask you to place her merciful gaze upon those among us who are suffer, especially the sick, the poor and those without dignified work.
Recalling the apostolic zeal of two figures lay of your land, Blessed Odoardo Focherini and Venerable Marianna Saltini, witnesses of the charity of Christ, I greet you, the lay faithful, with gratitude. I encourage you to be agents in the life of your community, in communion with your priests: always focus on what is essential in proclaiming and witnessing the Gospel.
I thank you, dear Bishop Francesco, and all of you, the bishops of the Emilia-Romagna region, for your presence, and above all the pastor of this diocese, Msgr. Francesco Cavina: I urge you to be close to your priests with listening, tenderness and thoughtful closeness.
Finally, I would like to thank each and every one of you, dear faithful, priests, men and women religious, the authorities and especially those who helped to organize this visit, with a special thought for the AGESCI and the choir, composed of all the choirs of the diocese, who have animated this liturgy.
Entrusting our lives and the fate of the Church and of the world to Mary, let us recite the Angelus prayer together.
Encounter with diocesan priests, men and women religious, and seminarians in the Seminary Chapel
Later that afternoon, in the Chapel of the Seminary of Carpi, the Holy Father Francis met with diocesan priests, men and women religious and seminarians.
After greeting to Bishop Francesco Cavina, the Pope gave an off-the-cuff address.
At the end of the encounter, the Holy Father left the Seminary and stopped briefly in the Cathedral. He then transferred by car to Mirandola.
Visit to the Duomo of Mirandola and encounter with the populations affected by the earthquake
Later that afternoon, the Holy Father Francis visited the Cathedral of Mirandola. Upon arrival he was received by the mayor of the city, Maino Benatti, and by Don Flavio Segalina, parish priest of the Duomo.
The Pope stopped in the square in front of the entrance to the Duomo, still inaccessible due to the 2012 earthquake and addressed the following words to the populations affected by the earthquake:
The Holy Father’s address
Dear brothers and sisters,
In this city of yours, still bearing visible signs of such a difficult trial, I wish to embrace you and the inhabitants of other towns struck by the earthquake in May of 2012. My venerable Predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, came to this area a few weeks after the event to bring solidarity and his personal encouragement, and that of the entire ecclesial community. Today I am among you to confirm to you the affection of all the Church and to show to each one of you my closeness and my encouragement for the path that still lies ahead in reconstruction. I address a cordial greeting to the bishop of this Diocese, Msgr. Francesco Cavina, the parish priest and the other priests, and the mayor and other authorities. I renew my appreciation of the Civil Defence, the volunteers and all who have been involved, at different levels, in the activities of restoring structures and in the resumption of community life.
I am well aware of how much the earthquake has affected the human and cultural heritage of this land of yours. I think of the hardships you have suffered: damage to your homes, to your productive activities, to churches and other monuments, rich in history and art and a symbol of the spirituality and culture of an entire people. But I think especially of the inner wounds: the suffering of those who lost their loved ones and those who have seen the disappearance of a lifetime’s sacrifices. In the days following the earthquake, your example of dignity and resourcefulness inspired great admiration in all. You have endeavoured to face with evangelical spirit the precarious situation caused by the earthquake, recognizing and accepting in painful events the mysterious presence of a Father who is always loving even in the toughest trials. Wounds have healed, yes, they have healed. But the scars remain, and will remain for a lifetime. And looking at these scars, have the courage to grow and to raise your children in that dignity, in that fortitude, in that spirit of hope, in that courage you had at the time of the wounds.
It is my hope that the strength of heart, the hope and the qualities of industriousness that set you apart will never be lacking. Remain steadfast in your intent not to give in to discouragement before the difficulties that still remain. Indeed, much it has been done in the work of reconstruction, but strong commitment to the recovery of historical centres too is more important than ever: they are places of historical memory and essential spaces for social and ecclesial life. I am sure you will not be lacking in good will, on the part of all those involved, to ensure a rapid execution of these necessary works, for the common good.
In front of your Cathedral, a symbol of the faith and tradition of this area and seriously damaged by the earthquake, with you I raise to the Lord a fervent prayer for the victims of the earthquake, for their families and for those who continue to live in precarious situations. May the Lord make His support felt by each one of you! I wish to leave, on the altar of the Duomo, a bouquet of flowers in memory of those who left us in the earthquake.
Dear brothers and sisters, in two weeks we will celebrate the Easter of Resurrection. May the strength of the Risen Lord sustain your commitment to complete reconstruction and inspire your hope. May the Virgin Mary and your patron saints obtain from the Lord the strength for those still in difficulty; may they obtain light and strength for minds and hearts so that all your expectations can soon be fulfilled. I thank you: thank you for the example you have given to all of humanity, an example of courage, of carrying on, of dignity. I warmly impart my Blessing to you and to the entire population gathered here.
And please, I ask you to pray for me. Thank you.
Floral tribute to the Monument to earthquake victims
At the end of the encounter in the square in front of the Duomo of Mirandola, with the populations affected by the earthquake, the Holy Father Francis transferred by car to the parish of San Giacomo in Roncole to lay a floral tribute to the Monument commemorating the victims of the earthquake, situated in the area adjacent to the parish.
Then, after farewell greetings from the authorities who had received him in the morning, he departed by helicopter from the sports field next to the parish to return to Rome.