In the wake of Pope Francis’ apostolic visit to Latin America, July 5-13, Father Federico Lombardi has spoken on some key points that emerged.
In an interview with Vatican Radio after returning from the nine-day, three-country trip, the Holy See Press Office director stressed how struck he was by the great presence of the people, saying the Pope’s relationship with them continues to amaze him. So many traveled and lined the streets to be near him, he observed, noting they did so with great faith and enthusiasm.
Father Lombardi pointed out that when many say “the people,” they mean to say “persons.” “‘The ‘people’ is not a beautiful word because it is a collective that seems to depersonalize,” he said. “We had a huge number of people present in every moment of this trip: the presence on the streets, I must say, is the thing that struck me the most, not as much for its size and for its style, but for its intense, emotional, and faith-filled atmosphere.”
“The Pope has perceived these things perfectly, and probably foresaw already from before and much better than us,” the spokesman noted. “However, I think the intensity, the size of that presence has somewhat surprised even him.”
Francis, he noted, is a “shepherd who knows his sheep, who is in the midst of them ….That was Pope Francis in these Latin American countries.”
Another question recognized that Pope Francis is obviously a person widely known and increasingly familiar to many, “But is there something more that we learned of who he is following this trip to ‘his’ Latin America?”
Here too, the director of the Holy See Press Office said, one sees that the thing that becomes even better known is Francis’ relationship with his people. Offering an example, Fr. Lombardi said, that even when the Pope turns to “the shepherds,” he says they must be close to the people and should not be alienated from their lives.
“We have experienced a relationship of great respect, esteem, and love of the Pope for these peoples,” he noted, saying Francis is encouraging them from both the human and spiritual points of view so they can work toward constructing their futures, “even the most poor and marginalized.”