Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, also reported that on Thursday, the Holy Father lunched with seven priests of Rome. This is a custom of Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, "sostituto" of the Vatican Secretariat of State.
The archbishop invited a priest of Caritas, another involved in the pastoral care of gypsies, also a priest in a wheelchair, another who works in the permanent formation of young people and yet another with a physical handicap who is the spiritual guide of other priests.
Pope Francis “was very pleased with this meeting with Roman priests,” said the spokesman, especially because “they had many stories to tell about their activities.”
One of the guests, Monsignor Enrico Feroci of Caritas-Rome said he felt like the “spokesman” of all the poor of the city. “It was the first time I met the Pope; it will leave a mark on my life to have seen the Bishop of Rome seated at our table and listening to us,” he told Vatican Radio.
“His ability to listen is something fantastic. One has the feeling of being at ease on recounting the experiences that one lives, said Monsignor Feroci, adding that “it was something outside the norm: he laughed, explained, reflected with us and gave us advice.”
“Leave the doors of the churches open, so that people will come in, and leave a light on in the confessional to indicate your presence and you will see the queue fill,” Francis said to us.
“I remembered the phrase to Zacchaeus, come down and come to lunch with us, said the priest who specified “all of us priests were involved in social assistance. I told him about the Caritas of Rome, about its 36 soup kitchens and the centers for mothers with children."
“I saw the Pope’s eyes fill with tears on listening to the experience of those who work in the charity work realm," he said. It “encouraged us to do more, because our bishop points this out to us.”
“It was a lunch in which we didn’t realize that we ate, as if it was a serene conversation among friends. What was important was who we were with and what he said to us,” added Monsignor Feroci.
On taking leave of us, he embraced us individually. I felt the Pope embracing me. He said to one of the priests, "I recommend to you open doors.” To another, he said: "The care of priests is very important, I recommend them to you.” And he gave each of us a Rosary.
"I had the feeling that he will soon come among the poor of Rome as well as to the parish communities. We will feel him present in the pastoral care of our city.”
Among those present was parish priest Mario Pasquale, who had an experience in the 70s as a manual laborer, worker priest, doing different manual activities, such as luggage carrier in the Tiburtina station.
“In this first meeting I had the opportunity to answer the Pope, Who are you? I had the impression of the ideal bishop that one wants to have in one’s life.”
Father Pasquale told the Pope that in those years there were some 40 priests who decided to live with the marginalized. “It’s not for us to judge the fruits. Our spirit was to give witness with our presence in these problems,” he said.
How did the Pope receive this testimony? “He was very attentive, I had the feeling he wanted to know and I perceived that he was not waiting to tell me what he thought but to listen to me, as a person, as a priest. And I felt I was heard in my story, in my journey, in my being priest. The fact of meeting him this way has given me the feeling of being understood at this particular moment.”
“I had the impression that he said to me ‘love the Church deep down,’ in particular, when he embraced each one of us as a father embraces a son he has not seen for years.”