Pope Francis visited the parish of St. Alphonsus Maria of Liguori in Rome on Monday, where he was greeted by hundreds of parishioners who prepared a live Nativity scene for the holidays.
The Holy Father was received by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the Vicar of Rome as well as, Fr. Dario Pompeo Criscuoli, pastor of the Roman parish.
Hundreds of children welcomed the Argentinian Pontiff with white and yellow balloons, the colors of the Vatican flag. After a moment of private prayer, the Holy Father greeted the handicapped, the sick and children of the parish personally. The well-wishers waited for hours for the Pope’s arrival.
During his visit to the Church, which lasted for over an hour, the Holy Father greeted the parish employees, speak to most of them personally. Jokingly, the Holy Father told one of the workers of the live Nativity: “Today is a feast, you shouldn’t be working!”
Contemplating the extraordinary Nativity scene, the Holy Father told Fr. Dario that “to set all this up you must be crazy, but that is good: God loves some crazyness.”
While visiting the stable with various animals, some of those playing the part of shepherds, placed a lamb over the Holy Father’s shoulders. The Pope blessed those taking part in the live Nativity and blessed the child playing Jesus who was baptized that very morning with the name Francis.
“Thank you for your Christian fervor. I thank this community and this beautiful live Nativity scene, for the work, for the catechesis,” the Holy Father said. The Pope also had a moment of dialogue with the faithful, asking them, “Is Jesus with us?” After responding with a thunderous “Yes” from the faithful, the Holy Father reminded them that although “Christmas ends, Christ remains with us!”
Before concluding his visit, Pope Francis prayed with the parishioners. “Let us pray for the parish community, for the children, for those on the way and for the grandfathers and grandmothers who have wisdom.”
“Long live Jesus, Long live Mary, Long live Joseph. Thank you very much!” the Pope said before leaving.