By Alessandro De Carolis
Argentine Fr. José María Di Paola, known familiarly as "Padre Pepe" and for his outreach to the poor, promoted the initiative to gather and send messages of good wishes to Pope Francis for the eighth anniversary of his election marked on March 13.
The project took on the slogan "Prophet of our land", and collected more than 100,000 messages, which have increased greatly in number thanks to sharing via social media.
Well-wishes from all parts of society
Messages came from politicians and slum dwellers, priests and artists, trade unionists and athletes, all united - from the palaces of power in Buenos Aires to the slums of a suburban barrio – with common sentiments of great esteem and admiration for Pope Francis.
They wished to put down on paper a thought, a desire that expressed these feelings and delivered them to the other side of the world, to the Pope’s home at the Casa Santa Marta.
In the video message, Pope Francis noted his pleasant surprise in receiving these messages, and thanked them all for coming together united in expressing their good wishes and supporting him in his ministry.
He said this gesture is "capable of moving hearts simply because it is authentic" and has offered a good "resource" for listening to the people and learning from them as they experience and live out their faith.