By Christopher Wells
Pope Francis’ visit to the parish of San Giulio Papa, in the neighbourhood of Monteverde, was marked especially by his meetings with various groups of parishioners.
Rebuilding the Church
The choice of San Giulio was prompted in part by the completion of restoration work begun three years ago after the roof had collapsed. Speaking to those who undertook the work of renovation, Pope Francis said, “We must be attentive, in the parish community, so that the life of virtue, of the liturgical actions, of holiness, does not fall”. He voiced his appreciation for the work, saying, “Thank you to the firm that has rebuilt the church; thanks too to the spiritual work of the pastor who works to ensure that the church will be holy.”
Taking questions during his meeting with children and young people, Pope Francis was asked if he ever personally fed the poor. “Yes, several times”, he said, adding that feeding the poor in person is something “that all Christians must do”.
Doubting is part of life
Another young person asked how people can trust God, despite their doubts, and asked if Pope Francis ever had doubts. The Holy Father responded that everybody has doubts at some point: “To doubt is part of life”. In moments of doubt, he said, “We have to bet on one thing: on the fidelity of Jesus. Jesus is faithful, He is the only one who is totally faithful”. Pope Francis also said that we should not be afraid to doubt, and to be honest with God, telling Him exactly how we feel. He said it is important, too, to share our feelings with others, discussing them, and growing with the help of others”.
Pope Francis also met with older members of the parish community, speaking with them about the suffering they experience. Despite the problems of age and illness, “so many problems!”, the Pope said that Jesus is always there. “Jesus never disappoints, never!” Jesus knows what it means to suffer. Pope Francis said, “All the complaints that we can make to Jesus, He transforms them in prayer, and presents them to the Father, because He went through all these things before us”.
Signs a parish is doing well
In his meeting with newlyweds and young couples preparing for marriage, Pope Francis recalled the three “key words” that are essential for married life: “May I?”, “Thank you”, and “Sorry”. “Perhaps you already know them”, he said, “but they must be learnt with the mind and with the heart”. He also counselled young couples not to be afraid to fight, but to never end the day without making peace.
Finally, addressing volunteers in the parish Caritas outreach, Pope Francis offered three “signs” that a parish is doing well: prayer; the “charity of facts”, exemplified by their charitable works; and “passive charity”. “What is passive charity?” he asked rhetorically. “That you love one another and do not criticize one another”.
After hearing Confessions from several parishioners, Pope Francis concluded his visit by celebrating the Sunday Mass for the parish. The high point of the liturgy came with the dedication of the new altar by the Pope, the completion of the long work of rebuilding.