From Saint Peter’s to Termini station, passing by Saint John Lateran basilica: far from being the itinerary of touch-and-go- tourism, it is the spiritual journey undertaken over the past days by the First pilgrim of the Jubilee of Mercy that opened in Bangui, Africa, until, yesterday afternoon, he walked through the “Holy Door of Charity” leading to the “Don Luigi Liegro” homeless hostel and the “John Paul II” soup kitchen. For the first time in the history of the Church the Holy Door of a Jubilee is not that of a cathedral. It’s the first “sign” that Pope Francis has wanted to give in the Jubilee Year, with a private visit, to highlight the special significance of the works of mercy. He chose his diocese, speaking in his capacities as Bishop of Rome to the Rome’s inhabitants. His hope: “May the Holy Spirit open the hearts of all Romans”, “Today we pray for Rome, we pray for all its inhabitants, starting with me, we pray that the Lord may give us the grace to feel discarded”.
At 16:25, five minutes in advance in the official program, the Pope – accompanied by Monsignor Enrico Feroci, director of Rome’s diocesan Caritas – opened the Door of Charity:
the liturgy began in the square in front the centre of via Marsala 109, where Francis was welcomed by a crowd of 500 people. Inside the soup kitchen structure 200 people – representing guests, workers and volunteers of Rome’s Caritas centres – gathered around the Pope. The choir’s performance, accompanied by guitars, was offered by the “hosts”, along with liturgical readings and prayers by the faithful. The “Fr Luigi di Liegro” hostel, and the “Saint John Paul II Soup Kitchen” offer services for the homeless. The former provides shelter to 195 guests every night, while 500 come for the evening meals. Mother Teresa was also mentioned in the Litany of prayers to the saints sung during the entrance procession. Yesterday the Pope, on his 79th birthday, approved the miracle attributed to her intercession. Thus during this Jubilee year, probably on September 4, another historic day will be lived in Rome with the related canonization ceremony.
The unscripted ten-minute homily, recited in the form of a meditation, centred on God born “in almost a hidden way” in a “lost” village in the peripheries of the Roman Empire: “the large cities were unaware”. “If you want to find God, seek him where humility and poverty dwell, where He is hidden, in the needy, in the neediest of people: in the sick, in the hungry, in those behind bars”, the Pope said, introducing a crescendo that culminated in the final words. “The entrance to the Church is not paid with money”; “Honours do not open the doors of Heaven”.
“God’s love is great. This is why, by opening this Holy Door today, I would like the Spirit to open the hearts of all Romans”.
Rome, centre of Christianity and a crossroads of the wounds of the last ones throughout history: “There is no luxury, it is not the way of power!” underlined Francis, seeming to denounce the “Mafia Capital” threat. “Our way is that of humility: the poor, the sick, those in prison”, as well as “the most sinful among us” – since those who access salvation “are those who practice charity are who let themselves be embraced by the Lord’s mercy.” “The way of riches, of self-importance, of vanity and of pride are not the ways of salvation”, the Pope went on, extending his glance to everyone, asking this Jubilee Year to bring the grace of the opening of hearts. Thus, the central invocation of the homily: “May the Lord make us understand that His caress of Father, His mercy, His forgiveness is when we approach those that suffer, those discarded by society”. “This Door is the Door of charity, the Door where so many, so many discarded are assisted”, Francis underlined. “May He make us understand that it would also be good if every one of us felt discarded, and felt the need of God’s help”. “Today,” the Pope said, “we pray for Rome, for all the inhabitants of Rome, for everyone, starting with me, we pray that the Lord may give us the grace to feel discarded”. We need to draw near “to the discarded, to the poor, to the needy, because we will be judged on that closeness”. “May the Lord grant this grace to all Rome, to all its inhabitants, so that they may embrace mercy”.
Two sons of migrants and a journey. The Holy Door of Charity, beneath the mosaic by Fr Marko Ivan Rupnik depicting the “logo” of the Jubilee, is not only the entrance to a place. It leads us “amidst” the wounds of the poor, of the outcast, of the marginalised of that small village of charity in the heart of the Capital founded in 1987 by a priest who described himself as a “son of migration”. Also Francis is a son of migrants, and he knows that life is best seen from peripheries because at the centre we are sheltered; while in peripheries there is no other option than to go out to the open sea. From today, the Door of charity, for whosoever will want to cross it, will become inseparably bound to the service: you shall not pass near here turning the opposite way, you must “Touch the flesh” of your brother, that is part and parcel of the way of Caritas.