Sunday afternoon, the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Pope Francis made a pastoral visit to Saint Mary’s parish of Setteville, at Setteville of Guidonia (Rome).
Upon his arrival, around 3:40 pm the Pope greeted the Assistant Parish Priest, Father Giuseppe Berardino, 50, gravely ill for over two years with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. During the meeting, which lasted 10 minutes, the Holy Father expressed in a low voice to the priest — immobilized in his bed and unable to speak — words of comfort. After a silent prayer, the Pope then administered to the assistant parish priest the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
Then, the Pontiff met with the different realities of the parish and, in particular, with 30 elderly and sick, among whom were three children suffering from Down’s syndrome; youngsters of catechesis, including many young people of the post-Confirmation course and a group of Scouts, with whom he chatted for more than half an hour, answering their different questions.
Subsequently, the Holy Father greeted 45 babies all baptized in the course of 2016, and he reminded their parents about the importance of the family. Then a meeting was held with some 100 faithful who help the parish priest, Father Luigi Tedoldi, in his pastoral work. The Pontiff gave them some advice, pausing on the value of the mission.
Later, after greeting the priests and five seminarians of the parish, the Holy Father Francis went to the sacristy to hear the confession of four penitents: a young couple, that looks after the Assistant Parish Priest, a youth of the post-Confirmation course and the father of a sick child.
Around 5:40 pm, the Pope presided over the celebration of Holy Mass in the parish church. After the proclamation of the Gospel, the Holy Father delivered his off-the-cuff homily.
Around 7:00 pm, before leaving the parish, the Pope greeted numerous faithful gathered in front of the church since midday, and who followed the visit on giant screens set up for the occasion.
The Holy Father returned to the Vatican at 7:40 pm.
Here is a ZENIT working translation of the transcription of the homily:
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THE HOLY FATHER’S HOMILY
The Gospel presents John [the Baptist] to us at the moment in which he gives witness of Jesus. Seeing Jesus coming towards him, he says: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, for He was before me’” (John 1:29-30). This is the Messiah. He gives witness, and some disciples — disciples of John –, hearing this testimony, followed Jesus. They followed behind Him and were happy: “We have found the Messiah!” (John 1:41). They felt Jesus’ presence. But why did they find Jesus? Because a witness existed; there was a man who gave witness of Jesus.
It happens so in our life. There are so many Christians that profess that Jesus is God; there are so many priests that profess that Jesus is God, so many Bishops … But do they all give witness of Jesus? Or is being Christian a way of living as any other, as a fan of a team? “But yes, I’m Christian …” Or as having a philosophy: “I observe these Commandments, I’m a Christian, I must do this …” To be a Christian, first of all, is to give witness of Jesus. – This is the first thing. And this is what the Apostles did: the Apostles gave witness of Jesus, and because of this Christianity spread throughout the world. Witness and martyrdom: they are the same thing. One gives witness in little things, and some in great things, they give their life in martyrdom, as the Apostles did. However, the Apostles did not take a course to become witnesses of Jesus; they didn’t study, they didn’t go to university. They felt the Spirit within and followed the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; they were faithful to this, but they were all sinners! The Twelve were sinners. “No, Father, only Judas!” No, poor thing … We don’t know what happened to him after his death, because God’s mercy was there also at that moment. But they were all sinners, all <of them>. Envious, there was jealousy between them. “No, I must occupy the first place and you the second”; and two of them spoke to their mother, asking her to go to speak to Jesus to give the first place to her sons … They were like this, with all their sins. They were also traitors, because when Jesus was seized, they all fled, full of fear; they hid themselves, they were afraid. And Peter, who knew he was the head, felt the need to get somewhat closer to see what was happening. And when the priest’s servant said: “But you also are …”, he said: “No, no, no!” He denied Jesus, betrayed Jesus, Peter, the first Pope betrayed Jesus! And these were the witnesses! Yes, because they were witnesses of the salvation that Jesus brings and all, because of this salvation, were converted, they let themselves be saved. It was good when, on the shore of the Lake, Jesus wrought that miracle [the miraculous catch] and Peter said: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8). To be a witness does not mean to be a saint, but to be a poor man, a poor woman who says: “Yes, I’m a sinner, but Jesus is the Lord and I give witness of Him, and I try to do good every day, to correct my life, to go on the right way.”
I would like to leave you only one message. This, what I said, we all understand: <we are> sinful witnesses. But, reading the Gospel, I don’t find a [certain type of] sin in the Apostles. There were some violent ones, who wanted to call down fire on a village that did not listen to them … They had so many sins: traitors, cowards … But I don’t find a [particular sin]: they were not gossipers, they did not speak badly of others, they did not speak badly of one another. In this, they were good. They did not “flay” one another. I think of our communities: how many times, this sin <happens>, of “flaying one another,” of gossiping, of believing oneself superior to another and of speaking badly behind their back! In the Gospel, they did not do this. They did bad things, they betrayed the Lord, but did not <gossip>. Also in a parish, in a community where it is known … this one has cheated, this one has done that thing …, but then he goes to confession, is converted … We are all sinners. However, a community where there is gossip and gossipers, is a community that is incapable of giving witness.
I would say only this: do you want a perfect parish? <Then> don’t gossip, don’t. If you have something against someone, go and say it to his face, or tell the parish priest, but <don’t talk about> it among you. This is the sign that the Holy Spirit is in a parish. We all have the other sins. There is a collection of sins: one takes this, another takes that, but we’re all sinners. But what destroys, like woodworm, is gossip in a community behind one’s back.
On this day of my visit, I would like this community to make the resolution not to gossip. And when you get the desire to gossip, bite your tongue: it will swell, but it will do you so much good, because in the Gospel these witnesses of Jesus – sinners, they even betrayed the Lord, — never gossiped about one another. And this is good. A parish where there is no gossip is a perfect parish; it is a parish of sinners, yes, but of witnesses. And this is the witness that the first Christians gave: “How they love one another, how they love each other!” Love one another at least in this. Begin with this. May the Lord give you this gift, this grace — never, never talk about one another. Thank you.