Pope Francis pilgrim on the road of Father Mazzolari e Father Milani
In Bozzolo, Pope Francis was welcomed by the Bishop of Cremona, Monsignor Antonio Napolioni, who immediately announced that the process to beatify Don Primo Mazzolari will start on 18th September next. The Pope then went to the Parish of Saint Peter’s to pray on the tomb of Don Primo Mazzolari where he made a truly memorable address speaking, among other things, of the “magisterium of the parish priests”.
In Barbiana he was welcomed by Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, Archbishop of Florence and where he also wished to pray at the tomb of Don Lorenzo Milani on the fiftieth anniversary of his death. In church he met the Prior of Barbiana’s students and then gave a commemorative address in the forecourt of Don Lorenzo’s vicarage which will be very difficult to forget. His educative passion represented faithfulness to the Gospel and to all those who were entrusted to his care, said the Pope. He then added: “today, the Bishop of Rome recognizes in that life an exemplary way of serving the Gospel, the poor and the Church; take Don Lorenzo’s torch and carry it onwards”.
Don Primo Mazzolari and Don Lorenzo Milani, are ” two priests who offer us a message which we truly need today”, said Pope Francis last Sunday during the Angelus prayer.
Recently, from many places in and outside the Church there have been various analyses and comments on this pilgrimage of the Pope. Some have spoken of “rehabilitation”, others of “homage” for two priests who were always in the front line of their ministry. Whatever the right interpretation, it is a good thing to leave room for the facts. Pope Francis knelt before two great protagonists of the Church and Italian society in the twentieth century, recognizing in them a Church which placed itself at the service of the poor and announced the Mercy of Christ for everyone.
This act of kneeling is of strong symbolic importance. As we all know very well, Don Mazzolari and Don Milani were not short of “enemies”, as today there is no shortage of these for Pope Francis. They are enemies of various origin, especially ecclesial ones and among these there are those who, at the first breath of wind, change flags, ready to change again whenever necessary. It’s like listening once more to the story of St. Paul when he recounts his experience of: “perils among false brethren” ( 2Cor 11,26). Opposition to the Church of the Poor and the Last is very active on the web and in some traditionalist blogs. They accuse the Pope today, as they accused Don Primo and Don Lorenzo yesterday, of having thrown the Church into doctrinal, moral and pastoral confusion. Curiously, these blogs speak to each other, quote each other almost as if they were young Fathers of the Church. In reality, it is these defenders of an old church, a church that no longer exists, who are in confusion today, who have been an elitist community for much too long, without any sensitivity and ignoring different voices, ignoring the poor. During the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, some lay and clerical pseudo Catholics reduced a part of the Church to a cavern of thieves behind the backs of the two Popes, carrying on their business intrigues with the powerful people of the times, betraying the Gospel for a few pence; scheming with both the gay and financial lobbies, contracting out all evangelization work to the ecclesial movements, humiliating the parishes and the people of God; pseudo Catholics who defend principles by which they do not live and judge the dramas of people to whom they don’t listen, with whom they share nothing.
It is of paramount importance that we return immediately to the Church of Mazzolari, Milani and Pope Francis who divulge the Gospel with the Spirit of the Council, to attract not to proselytize.
It is with the strength of the prayer of Jesus and the Church as a whole that Pope Francis is undertaking his pastoral mission to bear witness to his brothers in the faith. He started off, as we all know, from the “outskirts”, from the island of Lampedusa, indicating to the world the centrality of both physical and existentialist outskirts.
Today, in Bozzolo and Barbiana, Pape Francis affirmed that the eye of the needle through which we need pass in order to speak to God is the outcast. Every day, the cries of the outcast strike us, louder and louder, “overturning” our Church pews, calling our attention back to essential things.
The Pope reminds us that the “Good News” of Jesus is not a new philosophy but the answer to the desire of all men throughout the ages: to be loved and free from slavery.
Whoever cures the wounds of the world, defends his people, teaches true freedom, excludes no-one a priori, is in the very heart of God.
Pope Francis, who came from the “end of the world”, today turned his face towards the entire world and the entire Catholic Church by indicating these two priests as models of the Gospel.
The Gospel reminds us that the Good Shepherd knows his sheep. Pope Francis has made the “ odour of the sheep” the perfume of all missionary works. And it is the odour of the sheep, says Pope Francis, which can reawaken the Church, people’s suffering and solitude, their desire for life and redemption, the frontier on which to build the field hospital which is the Church.
Let us thank the Lord for the gift of Don Primo and Don Lorenzo and let us ask the Spirit to give us the strength to carry on teaching the Gospel with their courage and coherence. Let us also ask the same Spirit go give us the humility to ask for forgiveness, as baptized persons, as lay persons, as priests and as the Italian Church, from these two great witnesses of Christ.
From today onwards, after this pilgrimage made by Pope Francis, unless the Italian Church, and indeed the entire Catholic Church, follows in the footsteps of Don Mazzolari and Don Milani, it will be a Church that disobeys the Spirit and Peter.