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Pope Francis' visit to San Giuseppe al Trionfale. He met the senior priests of the Diocese of Rome, but also the people of the Parish

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            At the end of last April the parish priest of San Giuseppe al Trionfale received a short phone call; from the Vicariate of Rome they communicated this news to him: «The Pope will come to you to meet the senior diocesan priests». A few words for wonderful news and for a challenging event to organize; the chosen date was Tuesday 14 May, in the afternoon.

            The preparation machine has been set in motion, coordinated by the vicegerent bishop Monsignor Baldassarre Reina and the Vatican Security Corps; the parish has the task of finding the appropriate accommodation and arranging the Holy Father's itinerary. The most appropriate location was identified in the Bacciarini Room, a large and suitable room  for meetings and conferences; the courtyard of the San Giuseppe oratory offered adequate space for parking (no small problem in the Prati district of Rome); Via Bernardino Telesio and the Basilica of San Giuseppe would have been the setting for the people's greeting to the Pope.

            In the context of the dialogue that the Holy Father wants to establish with various groups of priests from the city of Rome, of which he is bishop, he initially wanted to meet the priests ordained before 1984. And so, around 15.00 pm on the appointed day, the room Bacciarini has gradually filled up with over sixty priests. White heads and thinning hair, some sticks, some wheelchairs; However, the majority of those present showed a youthful attitude and a joyful surprise at the meeting to which they were invited. After a while of waiting, the Holy Father appeared, greeting him jovially, with his usual wheelchair. Almost a normal meeting between elderly priests, with the only difference that one of them sits on the Chair of Saint Peter. No prepared speeches; no formalities.; only the inevitable presence of the security service and the inevitable photographers.

            The Holy Father was accompanied by bishops Baldassarre Reina, vicegerent and Michele Di Tolve, auxiliary. After the initial prayer, the interventions of the priests began, presenting themselves, their past activities and their present situation. The memories of the parishes where each had worked offered the Holy Father a vivid insight into the Roman pastoral reality, made up of historic parishes in the Centre, but also of parishes in the suburbs, which were built precisely with the apostolate of the speaker.  Along with many thoughts of satisfaction and emotional and grateful memories, the inconveniences also emerged due above all to the forced rest of those who were accustomed to daily, sometimes frenetic, activity.

The Holy Father listened, agreed, took some notes. Every now and then he intervened to underline and complete the words of whoever was speaking. There was no pre-arranged speech, but his interventions reviewed some of Pope Francis' themes.

We must be “street priests. Several times the Pope recommended his priests to be among the people, both physically and with an external and internal attitude of closeness. Not a dominance, but a service, done with gentleness and brotherhood.

The fall of privileges. If once the priestly order could think of itself as a privileged class, today the privilege of priests must be that of prayer and work.

Unification of parishes (and dioceses). For better pastoral effectiveness, but also to show the fruit of communion that leads to collaboration between priests, the (sometimes necessary) unification of parishes is a good thing. Regarding the unification of the dioceses, Pope Francis confided that he had changed his opinion; while in the past he thought that small dioceses should be reunited, today he believes that such choices require greater caution, due to the fact that dioceses have a well-defined historical and social identity and it is not easy to unify what is so different.

Ministry of Confession. Senior priests often dedicate themselves to the ministry of Confession. Pope Francis recommended a welcoming, non-inquisitive, easy-to-forgive attitude. He reminded us that we need to help people recognize "angelic" (sic) sins, those that are committed with the mind and will.

The current marital situation and cohabitation. Pope Francis has shown that he is aware of the current situation of families and has asked them to take it into account with understanding and an attitude of help, as he has already indicated in his magisterial documents. A careful and effective pastoral care must be cultivated in this area.

Pay attention to the homily. He highly recommended holding short homilies (maximum eight minutes), carefully prepared, which have a thought, a feeling and a purpose. He asked us to avoid “theological conferences.

Old and young. He underlined several times the fruitfulness of the meeting (and discussion if necessary) between different generations of presbyters because young people have much to gain from contact with the elderly.

            After two hours of "conversation between friends", the Pope personally greeted all the priests who gathered around him; then he went to the Basilica where the children from the parish catechism and from the San Giuseppe School were gathered. An ovation greeted the Holy Father; everyone wanted to be heard and everyone shouted that they loved the Pope and prayed for him. He finally went out into the churchyard where a fairly large crowd was waiting for him. Here too the Pope stopped to caress the little ones who were presented to him, to bless all those present. It was 18pm when he returned to the Vatican, tired but smiling.

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