His story has moved Italy. After having received a phone call of encouragement from Pope Francis, 38-year-old Salvatore Mellone, at the end of his life due to an incurable illness, received priestly ordination yesterday afternoon in his own room at Barletta.
Don Mellone’s name jumped to a place of honor two days ago in the newspapers, when the news was published of the Pope’s telephone call. Francis said to him: “The first blessing you give, you will impart to me.” The Archdiocese of Trani-Barletta-Bisceglie and the Pontifical Seminary of Molfetta, where the new priest was formed, subsequently confirmed the conversation between the Pontiff and the sick seminarian.
Journalist, writer and poet, Salvatore Mellone has always worked in the Catholic ambit and, before entering the Seminary, he worked for a year at the Institute of the Marcelline Sisters of Bolzano.
However, his priestly vocation emerged later, when he was about 34. He has been distinguished by a constant life of prayer, by his charitable commitment and by his great sensitivity to the problems of the contemporary world, according to what a note of his diocese states. Mellone has always shown himself to be “willing to help his brothers” and “has been a constant and discreet point of reference in the community.”
Slightly less than a year ago, he was diagnosed with a neoplasia of the oesophagus and had to undergo intensive care that, nevertheless, did not impede him from continuing his formation and being numbered among the candidates to the priesthood and the diaconate.
After careful evaluation, with the nulla osta of the Regional Seminary, which followed his formation even in the months of sickness, Monsignor Giovan Battista Pichierri, Archbishop of Trani-Barletta-Bisceglie-Nazareth, after having consulted the Congregation for the Clergy, decided to ordain him deacon and priest, making use of the prerogative that Canon Law gives to Bishops in the matter of Holy Orders.
“Salvatore’s motivation can’t be reduced simply to a personal desire to become a presbyter, but is supported and endorsed by a careful discernment on the call, which he felt confirmed in himself, also in the moments of sickness,” reads the note of the Archdiocese.
“Suffering – continues the note – has made him perceive a more profound communion with the mystery of Christ, a charity at the service of the most suffering persons.” Taking up this particular vocational testimony, the Archbishop wished to crown “a serious and coherent journey, also in sickness.”
On his part, shortly before the Ordination, Mellone affirmed: “Today I feel carried on the shoulders of Christ; as a priest I will wear the stole with Christ, for the salvation of the world. To celebrate only one Mass is for me also a real participation in the priesthood of Christ.”
Don Salvatore’s ordination was projected on a giant screen in the parish of the most Holy Crucifix, followed by a great number of faithful friends and companions of the Seminary.
Present in Mellone’s house, instead, were only the Archbishop, the closest family members, the Mayor of Barletta, Pasquale Daccella, and the troup of TV2000 for the video recording.
During the homily, Monsignor Pichierri confirmed the reasons of his extraordinary decision and, speaking of the terrible illness that has struck Don Salvatore, he said: “The pain is in the flesh, in the spirit there is unspeakable joy.”
At the end of the rite of Ordination, the bells of the Most Holy Crucifix rang in celebration, amid the commotion of those present.
After expressing words of gratitude to the Bishop, the priests, the companions of the Seminary, family members, “friends that became brothers” the doctors and nurses and the sick, which he met during his calvary, Don Salvatore said: “I cannot abandon you now, for the most beautiful, “ because “Christ now says to me to go and bring comfort, a caress to all.”
“I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor Angels, nor Principalities neither the present, nor the future, nor the height or the depth will be able to separate me from the love of God,” he added.
Then he concluded carrying out the desire expressed to him on the telephone by the Holy Father: “May the blessing of Almighty God descend upon the Pope.”
Interviewed later by Vatican Radio, the new priest said: I have always had great joy but in a particular way in these days this joy is increasing even more.”
Speaking of the telephone call received from Pope Francis, Don Mellone admitted he felt “trepidation” and “slight embarrassment” but “with the heart truly full of joy because for us all he is a model and a teacher. We can do no other than follow him, be behind him and bless him and continue to pray for him.”