Pope Francis made an intense, one-day visit to Genoa on Saturday. With a departure at 7.00am, the schedule of the visit to the northern Italian port city on the Ligurian coast included six major appointments:
• A meeting with the “world of labour”;
• Another with the Bishops, priests, seminarians, and religious of Liguria, along with lay curial collaborators and representatives of other religious confessions at the Cathedral of San Lorenzo;
• An encounter with young people attached to the Diocesan Mission at the Marian Sanctuary of the Madonna della Guardia;
• Lunch at the sanctuary with a number of poor and homeless persons, refugees, and prisoners;
• A moment with children from the various departments of the Giannina Gaslini Pediatric Hospital;
• Solemn Mass at the Piazzale Kennedy named for the first Catholic President of the United States.
The Holy Father’s meetings with the various groups followed a Q&A format.
Pope Francis’ meeting with the world of labour included four questions regarding the issues ranging from the challenges of ossified and unresponsive bureaucracy to the dehumanizing effects of technology and large forces on the workplace and the labour market: one each from a worker, an entrepreneur, a business-owner, and a union representative.
In each of his responses Pope Francis focused on the primacy of the human person over the reality and rights of labour and capital, insisting that only a correct vision of human nature can inform and direct our efforts to build a just and harmonious society.
The Pope also insisted forcefully on work as something given to man in the order of creation, and essential to genuine human flourishing.
“It is necessary, therefore, to look fearlessly and a sense of responsibility on the technological transformations of the economy and of life, he said, “without resigning ourselves to the ideology that seems to be gaining a foothold wherever one looks, which envisions a world in which only a half or maybe two-thirds of employable people actually work, and the others maintained with a welfare cheque.”
“It must be clear,” Pope Francis continued, “that the true objective to reach is not ‘income for all’ but ‘work for all’.”
Clergy and Religious
The questions from clergy and religious came from two secular priests, Don Andrea Carcasole and Don Pasquale Revello: the President of the Italian Union of Women Religious Superiors for the Liguria Region; and Fr. Andrea Caruso, O.F.M. Cap.
Their queries focused on the search for ways to maintain hope and nourish the interior life of faith in today’s frenetic world – and the Holy Father’s responses centered on the imitation of Christ, the fostering of a sense of fraternity among the clergy and of genuine diocesan ecclesial unity, and the cultivation of a rich, mission-focused interior life of prayer.
“What we want,” said Pope Francis, “is pastoral conversion, missionary conversion.”
The Pope also condemned the practice – diffuse in Latin America and at one time not too long ago present also in Italy and other places, of encouraging poor young women to join a religious congregation as novices – often in order to shore up diminishing numbers – and then to abandon the girls and young women for whom religious life is not their calling.
“It is a scandal,” said Pope Francis.
“Work [to foster vocations] is difficult, but we must do it,” he said. “It is a challenge,” Pope Francis continued. “We need to be creative.”
During that encounter the Pope also prayed for the Coptic Christians killed on Friday in Egypt by Islamic extremists, saying that there are more Christian martyrs today than in ancient times: “Let’s not forget, he said, that today there are more Christian martyrs than in ancient times, than in the early day times of the Church.”
Pope Francis’ meeting with young people took place in the sanctuary complex of Our Lady of the Watch – the centuries-old Marian shrine atop Mount Figogna overlooking the Ligurian Sea, from which sentries kept watch for hundreds of years for approaching ships and armies on the move in the Valpolcevera.
Four young people of Liguria – two young men and two young women – asked questions regarding discernment, keeping and growing the faith in themselves and sharing it with their fellows, meeting the challenges of building a just and merciful society in the face of a constant barrage of bad news and overwhelming personal brokenness often found right next door or in their own homes, and meeting the “right” person with whom to settle down and start a family.
“Loving means having the capacity to take a ‘dirty’ hand in your own and look those who are in a situation of degradation in the eye and saying: ‘For me, you are Jesus’” the Pope said.
And responding to an observation about how it is accepted as ‘normal’ that the Mediterranean Sea has become a cemetery, The Pope said Italy is generous but if it seems ‘normal’ for so many countries to close their doors to people who are fleeing hunger, war, exploitation, then it is necessary for us all to bring about a change of mentality.
Lunch with the Poor, Homeless, Refugees, and Prisoners
Pope Francis took lunch with the poor and homeless of Genoa, as well as members of the refugee community – some 135 people, all gathered in one of the sanctuary complex’s great-rooms.
Detainees serving penal sentences in the region’s Pontedecimo and Marassi prisons were also connected via closed-circuit television.
The Holy Father had special words of encouragement for the prisoners, 11 of whom were personally present for the meal.
During the afternoon Pope Francis spent time with young patients of the “Giannina Gaslini” children’s hospital and with their families.
Upon his arrival at the hospital the Pope visited the intensive care units before meeting personally with some 300 little patients, their families and the hospital staff: “The suffering of children is the hardest to accept” the Pope said, and the lack of an answer as to ‘why do children suffer?’ can find alleviation only in the message of the Cross.
Pope Francis thanked the hospital staff for the love and dedication they show towards their little patients and said that faith operates through charity, and that without charity there is no faith. He encouraged them to continue to put their delicate service into practice thinking often of the ‘Good Samaritan’ and always being attentive to the needs of the patients.
The highlight of the day was the celebration of Mass during which Pope Francis said “Christian prayer is not a way of being a little bit at peace with oneself or finding some interior harmony; we pray in order to bring all to God, to entrust the world to Him.”
He said the Gospel calls us to “go out into the world with Jesus ‘message” because God’s love is dynamic and wants to reach others.
“A Christian is always on the move with the Lord towards other. He is a pilgrim, a missionary, a hopeful marathon man, gentle but intent on walking”, the Pope said. The Lord – he explained – desires that the proclamation goes ahead with his strength, not with that of the world, with the limpid and meek strength of joyful witnessing. This, the Pope said, is urgent.
Source: Vatican Radio