By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Pope Francis paid a surprise visit to “Cittadella Cielo” (Heavenly Citadel), a work of the “Nuovi Orizzonti” community founded by Chiara Amirante. He was accompanied by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.
The Pope among his flock
When the Pope arrived around 9:40 in the morning, those present welcomed him in the facility’s auditorium. Chiara Amirante spoke briefly, after which a young man and a young woman gave their testimonies. Internationally known opera singer, Andrea Bocelli, was also present with his son. Together, they sang “Follow Me” and described their own connection with the community. Several other young people and adults present explained how their lives had changed and how they encountered the Christian faith through the “Nuovi Orizzonti” community. Some of them asked the Pope questions, as well. This went on until 12:20pm.
Pope Francis then celebrated Holy Mass during which Andrea Bocelli sang the Communion and Recessional Hymns. At the end of the liturgy, the consecrated members of the Community renewed their commitment at the service of the Church and their Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
After eating lunch, the Pope met with the personnel working at the facility and then went outside to plant an olive tree. He then took leave of the community at 4:50pm to return to the Vatican.
You told me about your lives
In responding to the personal stories that those present recounted to him, the Pope acknowledged that they had not just spoken one word after another. “You told me about your lives”, the Pope said. After having experienced so many types of looks from people, “you experienced one look – one – that was not like any other…. A look that gazed on you with love. He looked on you with love. I know that gaze too”, he said.
The Lord is patient
The Pope then gave some feedback to a young man named Jefferson saying that following the Lord is made up of “comings and goings”. He reminded his listeners that the Lord was patient with his apostles. “You, with your testimonies, made me feel that the Lord’s gaze is patient: he waits for you and never forces you to go ahead”, he added. The Lord knows that “with His first gaze he entered your heart. He knows that once you have tasted love you can’t go back on it”.
You were looking for something else
To Elena’s testimony, the Pope responded saying, “you were looking in the mirror, but there was something else you were looking for”. Once she had experienced Jesus’ loving look, that’s when “your story began”, he said. “Or rather, it continued, because the Lord never, never, never teaches us to deny our past”, the Pope added.
You have witnessed to the Lord
Pope Francis acknowledged several other persons who had shared their life stories with him, saying, “What struck me is that you have all given witness about Jesus…. You have been called, looked on, conquered, caressed” by Jesus. He also encouraged those present affirming that “the tendency to sin remains…. But when we have left everything, we know that there is hope only in Him”.