Pope Francis had lunch with seven Roman priests on Thursday after celebrating the Chrism Mass in the Vatican Basilica. The meal took place in the apartment of Archbishop Angelo Becciu, Substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State. Most of the priests work with the poor and under-privileged in the suburbs of Rome.
The Archbishop has held this lunch for several years, and when Pope Francis heard about it, he wanted to attend.
After the lunch, Vatican Radio spoke with two of the priests who attended.
“I don’t believe the Pope wanted to meet me personally, but wanted to meet the poor of Rome through me,” said Msgr. Enrico Feroci, the Director of Caritas Rome.
He said listening to the Pope is an extraordinary experience, and that he puts you at ease, and makes it feel as if you have been heard.
“He is not one who listens to you thinking about what to say next,” Msgr. Feroci said. “He listens profoundly; empathetically; richly.”
He recounted how during the lunch, Pope Francis joked, listened, reflected, and gave his perspective. Msgr. Feroci said Pope Francis urged them to be generous in offering confession.
“He said, ‘Open the doors of the Church, and then the people will come in…if you keep the light on in the confessional and are available, then you will see what kind of line there is for confession’…The Pope said he was confident of the need of the people of God for priests to open the doors and allow the people to meet God,” Msgr. Feroci told Vatican Radio.
Father Mario Pasquale, who had served as a worker-priest for 40 years, told Vatican Radio that he felt “heard” during the meal with the Pope, and that he had the “feeling of being understood.”
He said Pope Francis told them he wants to meet the people in the parishes as Bishop of Rome.
“You feel that the Pope has a lot of hope in his heart,” Father Pasquale said. “I had this feeling that this is someone who love the Church and invites you to love the Church, too, to the end – for life – and that it’s worth it.”