Waiting for the Father

2013-03-27 L’Osservatore Romano

Forty-nine young people, the inmates of the Roman borstal, Casal del Marmo, are preparing to receive an extraordinary gift. Pope Francis will go there in the afternoon of Holy Thursday, 28 March, to celebrate the Mass of the Lord's Supper. A joyful atmosphere of expectation pervades the institute.  Such an important visit had certainly not been on the cards. Above all, there had been no expectation of so suddenly touching the heart of the Pope whom they do not yet know. “The young people's enthusiasm”, Liana Giambartolomei, the principal, told us, “must be linked to the very fact that they feel they will be playing the lead on a historic day. Moreover, this is exactly what Pope Francis wanted. He expressly asked us to make sure that there were no other young people here. He wants to be certain that they know he is coming solely for them, because he loves them, he carries them in his heart and considers them important, very important”. A Caritas worker in the penal institute says that one of them, having heard the news, exclaimed: “At last I shall get to meet someone who says he is my father!”.

Fr Greco, the chaplain, does not conceal the fact that he was somewhat perplexed, at least to start with, “because”, he told our paper, “only eight of our residents are Italian: six boys and two girls. The others are all foreigners. And most of them are Muslim. Then there are some who have no religious belief at all. Therefore many of them don't even know who the Pope is. For this reason too, it was far from easy to explain to them the importance of the Pope's visit”. “A young Neapolitan”, the chaplain confided, “who has been here for a while came to my help. He gathered them all together, to try to make them understand above all what the Pope's act, which is an act of love for them, actually meant. I was upset for a moment by the first looks, that were either blank or only faintly curious about my enthusiasm. Then our friend broke the silence with that most classic of Neapolitan expressions: “Maronna mia, o Papa accà!” [good heavens! The Pope here!] and he ran his hand through his hair, his face betraying emotions mingled with happiness. At that very instant all the others, seeing his amazement, realized that it must really be something very special and began to question me. Little by little, I saw their enthusiasm growing.