Parish dedicated to Rome’s poor gets a visit from Pope Francis

Pope Francis traveled in the eastern outskirts of Rome on Sunday afternoon to hear confessions and say Mass at a parish known for its commitment to the city’s poor and the marginalized.
The Feb. 8 visit to San Michele Arcangelo in Pietralata marks the third time a Pope has gone to the parish: Bl. Paul VI celebrated the Christmas Mass there in 1963, while St. John Paul II visited the parish Nov. 1991.
In an off-the-cuff homily, Pope Francis reflected on the themes of teaching and healing, as presented in the day’s Gospel reading (Mark 1:29-39).
“Do I let Jesus preach to me, or do I know everything?” he challenged. “Let Jesus preach to you, and and let Jesus heal you. We are all wounded. Everyone.”
In so allowing ourselves to be taught and healed by Jesus, the Holy Father continued, we can, in turn, teach the Word of Jesus, and help heal the wounds of others.
Concelebrants at the Mass were Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the auxiliary bishop for northern Rome, parish priest and the deputy parish priest Fr. Massimo Cautero, and Fr. Mauricio Andrés Fontalvo Floriàn and Fr. Nicolàs Francisco Garzon Reyes, Colombian priests who assist at the parish.
“We are before Jesus in this celebration,” the pope said. “Jesus is He who presides over this celebration. We priests, we are in the name of Jesus, but He presides, he is the True priest Who offers the sacrifice to the Father.”
Before Mass, the Holy Father heard confessions, and also met with young members of the parish community and their families, including the sick children, the newly-baptized, those preparing to receive their first communion, and some 80 scouts.
In an interview with CNA/EWTN News ahead of Sunday’s pastoral visit, Msgr. Aristide Sana, parish priest of San Michele Arcangelo for the past 17, spoke about the preparations by the pastoral groups and other parishioners. “And we try to explain the importance of the visit to children, who are very curious.”
The Pietralata Block was build during the 1930s as a provisional allocation for those evicted from their homes in downtown Rome following the restructuring of the city by early 20th century Prime Minister, Benito Mussolini.
Located in a region where many are homeless, unemployed, or unable earn enough money for food, the parish Caritas center delivers food to families in need twice a month, while offering legal and job counseling.
The parish, also ministers to former inmates, many of whom live in the area owing to the nearby Rebibbia prison.
“We are the beating heart of the area,” Msgr. Sana said.
Established in 1938 in the block of Pietralata, its titular Cardinal is Mexican prelate and close friend of Pope Francis, Javier Lozano Barragàn.
The 30-person choir, directed by Maestro Carlo Alberto Gioja, sang “El Pueblo de Dios,” a hymn played in Argentina during the pilgrimage to the Madonna of Lujan shrine.
Pope Francis also reminded the faithful to remain in “daily contact” with Christ, which they can do by keeping a small copy of the Gospel with them to read throughout the day.
“Jesus speaks to me, Jesus preaches to me there, in the Word of God.”

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