Francis began his visit at the Case Bianche compound, home to three families. He met priests and consecrated people at the Cathedral where he talked about discernment. “Choose the peripheries, reawaken processes, ignite the spent and weakened hope of a society that has become insensible to the pain of others,” he said.
Milan (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis began a pastoral visit to Milan this morning. He met with deacons and consecrated people in Milan’s Duomo focusing on “discernment”, a “choice that as pastors we cannot elude”. Before he met with three families at the ‘Case Bianche’ (White Houses), a residential compound in the city’s Forlanini area (pictured), a low-income neighbourhood.
These families exemplify the people who live the suburbs of big cities: an elderly couple married in church 61 years ago, a middle-aged couple married civilly with the seriously ill husband recovering from alcohol abuse, and an open-minded Muslim couple from Morocco who help out with Arabic at the local parish school.
When he arrived, the Holy Father was greeted by thousands of people who had waited for him in the area’s main square. Thanking them “for your welcome” upon arriving in Milan, he told them “You are a great gift to me, coming to the city greeted by faces, families, a community."
The pope dedicated the second meeting and most of the morning to priests and consecrated people. In the Duomo Francis answered three questions from a priest, a permanent deacon, and a nun.
In answering the priest who asked him about the “challenges of secularism and [. . .] the evolution of Milanese society, which is increasingly plural, multiethnic, multi-religious and multicultural society,” the pontiff said “There is a choice that as pastors we cannot elude: forming in discernment.”
“As I think I have understood from the question, diversity presents a very tricky scenario. The culture of abundance to which we are subjected offers a range of many possibilities, presenting them all as valid and good. Our young people are exposed to constant ‘zapping’. They can navigate on two or three screens open simultaneously, they can interact at the same time in different virtual scenarios. Like it or not, this is the world in which they find themselves, and it is our duty as pastors to help them through this world. So, I think it is good to teach them how to discern, so that they have the tools and elements to help them walk the path of lift without extinguishing the Holy Spirit that is in them. In a world without choices, or with fewer possibilities, perhaps things seem clearer, I don’t know.
“Today our faithful, and we ourselves, are exposed to these realities, and for this reason I am convinced that as an ecclesial community we must increase the habitus of discernment. And this is a challenge, and requires the grace of discernment, to try to learn to have the habit of discernment. This grace, from the young to adults, everyone. When we are children it is easy for our mother and father to tell us what we have to do, and that’s fine – today I don’t think it is so easy; in my day, yes, but today I don’t know, but anyway it is easier. But gradually as we grow, amid a multitude of voices where seemingly all are right, the discernment of what leads us to the Resurrection, to the Life and not to a culture of death, is crucial.”
The deacon asked “what is our role in giving form to the face of the Church that is humble, that is selfless.” In his answer, Francis said, “You deacons have much to give, much to give. I think of the value of discernment. Within the presbytery, you can be an authoritative voice to show the tension there is between duty and will, the tensions that one lives in family life – you have a mother in law, for example! And also the blessings one lives within family life.”
Deacons, he went on to say, are not “half priests”. Indeed, “The diaconate is a specific vocation, a family vocation that requires service”, which is “one of the characteristic gifts of the people of God. The deacon is, so to say, the custodian of service in the Church. Every word must be carefully measured. You are the guardians of service in the Church: service to the Word, service to the Altar, service to the poor. And your mission, the mission of the deacon, and your contribution consist in this: in reminding us all that faith, in its various expressions – community liturgy, personal prayer, the various forms of charity – and in its various states of life – lay, clerical, family – possesses an essential dimension of service. Service to God and to brothers. And how far we have to go in this sense!
Finally, the nun asked him “what existential peripheries and which areas should we choose and favour, with renewed awareness of being a minority”?
Francis replied: “I would not dare say to you to which existential peripheries you must address your mission, because normally the Spirit inspired charisms for the peripheries, to go to places and corners that are usually abandoned. I don’t believe that the Pope can tell you: concern yourselves with this or that. What the Pope must tell you is this: there are few of you, but the few of you there are, go to the peripheries, go to the boundaries and encounter the Lord there, to renew the mission of origins, to the Galilee of the first encounter, return to the Galilee of the first encounter!
“Choose the peripheries, reawaken processes, ignite the spent and weakened hope of a society that has become insensible to the pain of others. In our fragility as congregations we can make ourselves more attentive to the many forms of frailty that surround us, and transform them into a space of blessing. It will be the moment that the Lord will tell you, ‘Stop, there is a ram here. Do not sacrifice your only son’. Go and take the ‘anointment’ of Christ, go forth.
“And do not forget that whenever ‘Jesus [is] in the midst of His people, they encounter joy. For this alone will bring back our joy and hope, this alone will save us from living in a survival mentality’. Please, no, this is resignation! [. . .] Only this will make our lives fruitful and keep our hearts alive: putting Jesus where He belongs, in the midst of His people.”
Upon leaving the cathedral, the pontiff recited the Angelus with tens of thousands of people waiting outside in the square and then went to Milan’s San Vittore Prison to meet and have lunch with prisoners.