The Pope's day with the people of Cassano all’Jonio-Beyond the headlines

2014-06-23 L’Osservatore Romano

In Cassano all'Jonio Pope Francis excommunicates members of the mafia. This was the news that circled the globe instantaneously. But for the 250,000 faithful who braved the oppressive heat at Marina di Sibari on Saturday afternoon for the Mass celebrated by the Pope, it was a breath of hope. And their thunderous and long applause seemed to be their cry for redemption that runs through the whole of Calabria and all those countries where organized crime rules.

But it wouldn't be right to reduce Pope Francis' entire day to that warning to those involved in organized crime, whether it be the ’ndrangheta, the mafia or the camorra. The people of Cassano showed the Pope the true face of the Calabria: that of welcome, solidarity, closeness to the suffering, love for the elderly. And Pope Francis unearthed these characteristics in various places. After visiting the penitentiary and the hospice in the morning, and before going to the Cathedral to speak with the priests and eat lunch with the poor, as well as drug addicts, he went to Casa Serena, a nursing home for the elderly. Then the Holy Father stopped at the Parish of Joseph, where in Fr Lazzaro Longobardi was killed. And in the church he thanked the police force for their constant aid in protecting the people.

Then Pope Francis entered the garden of a family that had asked him to stop by, bringing a moment of joy to people to suffer every day. Casa Lufrano can be found at the end of the road which links Cassano to Sibari, that same road which the Pope had taken to arrive at the place where he celebrated Mass. Among the line of trees a white sheet was hung with the words: “Pope Francis, stop here. An angel is waiting for you”. It was so big that it could not have gone unnoticed. The Pope asked his driver to turn around and go back to find Roberta, that “angel” which was waiting for him. She laid there, on the bed, that she had not moved from since she was born due to a extremely debilitating disability. Pope Francis got out of the car and entered the garden, he bent over Roberta, caressing her with tenderness. He blessed her and her loved ones. Then he climbed into the car and continued his journey.

Mario Ponzi