Salesian Fr. Enrico Pozzoli in Argentina (file photo) Salesian Fr. Enrico Pozzoli in Argentina (file photo) 

Pope praises Italian priest who baptized him as ‘true Salesian’

Pope Francis greets a group of pilgrims from Lodi, and recalls the virtues of the Italian city’s native-born son who became a missionary to Argentina and baptized the future Pope.

By Devin Watkins

Salesian Fr. Enrico Pozzoli was born in Senna Lodigiana, in Italy’s northern Lombardy region, and spent his life as a missionary in Argentina.

The Italian-born priest baptized Jorge Mario Bergoglio on 25 September 1936, and later helped him discern his vocation to join the Society of Jesus, also helping the future Pope’s parents accept his decision to become a priest.

Pope Francis recalled Fr. Pozzoli on Friday during an audience with pilgrims from the Diocese of Lodi, in which the priest was born.

“He was a true Salesian!” said the Pope of the priest who baptized him. “He was a wise, good, and hardworking man, an apostle of the confessional—he never tired of hearing confessions—and was merciful and well-versed in listening and offering advice.”

The Pope thanked one of the pilgrims present for writing a biography on Fr. Pozzoli, which was presented formally to the Holy Father at the audience.

Portrait of Fr. Enrico Pozzoli
Portrait of Fr. Enrico Pozzoli

Hard-hit early in pandemic

Pope Francis also recalled that the area around Lodi was the first place in the Western Hemisphere to be designated a “Red Zone” at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He offered his heartfelt thanks to doctors, nurses, volunteers, chaplains, and mayors of the area for their hard work throughout the pandemic.

“Today, the sign you offer is that of a community that seeks to start out afresh, while appreciating past experience and giving value to the talents which emerged in the harshest moments of trial,” he said.

Synod: an institutional journey

The Pope went on to speak about the ongoing Synod, which has recently moved into a new phase, as all Bishops’ Conferences were scheduled to hand their national syntheses over to the Vatican.

The Synod, said Pope Francis, seeks to help the people of God grow in our identity as Church, by walking together and listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit in various charisms and ministries.

He lamented once hearing someone say they wanted to see “a Church that is more synodal and less institutional.”

“This is incorrect,” said the Pope. “The synodal journey is institutional, because it belongs to the very nature of the Church. We are in synod because we are an institution.”

Wellspring of the Gospel

In conclusion, Pope Francis encouraged the pilgrims from Lodi to return to the wellspring of the Gospel.

“The world changes, but Christ and His Gospel do not,” he said. “The future of the Church lies in returning to the essentials—going to the source—and taking from there set out again on our journey.”

26 August 2022, 13:49