Rome Newsroom, Nov 17, 2023 / 11:24 am (CNA).
Pope Francis met with priests of Rome’s 17th prefecture — which sits on the eastern edge of the metropolitan area — in the Parish of Santa Maria Madre dell’Ospitalità in Villa Verde on Thursday evening to discuss pressing pastoral needs and material challenges.
The pope’s visit reflects his call to reach out to the “peripheries” of society, a theme that has been central to his pontificate. The 17th prefecture includes the neighborhoods of Rome’s fifth municipal district such as Tor Bella Monaca, Torre Angela, and Torre Gaia; it is one of the poorest areas of the city.
During the one-and-a-half-hour conversation, the pope took time to meet the 40 priests gathered there and to discuss the main pastoral needs of the parish and the prefecture, including “work, the sacraments, poverty, hospitality, assistance to socially weaker groups, [and] evangelization,” Vatican News reported.
Bishop Riccardo Lamba, auxiliary bishop of Rome’s eastern sector, said the meeting was characterized by “a very open, cordial, and familiar dialogue” and that the pope “encouraged everyone to continue with the good work they already do, to continue being among people, to continually propose the Gospel even if there are difficulties,” RomaSette reported.
Pope Francis meets with priests of Rome’s 17th prefecture in the parish of Santa Maria Madre dell’Ospitalità in Villa Verde in Rome on Nov. 16, 2023. Credit: Vatican Media
“He said to continue to have this synodal style in the parishes, which implies continuous collaboration between laypeople and priests,” the bishop said.
At the end of his meeting the pope visited the Villaggio dell’ospitalità (Hospitality Village), a complex adjacent to the parish that consists of 12 apartments and provides emergency housing for both Italian and foreign families.
At that complex he met with several families, including a Ukrainian family that had fled from the ongoing war in the country a month ago.
“At the moment, seven families live in the village and then people waiting to reunite with their husbands, wives, or children, for a total of 12 apartments, which were built when the parish complex was built,” said Father Rocco Massimiliano Caliandro, pastor of Santa Maria Madre dell’Ospitalità, according to RomaSette.
Pope Francis meets with residents of apartments adjacent to the Parish of Santa Maria Madre dell’Ospitalità in Villa Verde in Rome on Nov. 16, 2023. Credit: Vatican Media
“With the help of a group of volunteers and with the support of the whole community, we try to stay close to these families both humanly and materially, offering them not only accommodation but also the possibility of taking food from a warehouse we have here in the parish,” he continued.
Caliandro said the visit reflected the pope’s pastoral priorities centered on the care of the most vulnerable.
“[The pope] made one word resonate in reference to all the themes touched upon in the meeting with us priests and it is ‘taking risks,’ compromising with people, always making sure that people prevail,” he said.
This was not the pope’s first visit to impoverished Roman neighborhoods. On Sep. 29 the Holy Father visited the Parish of Santa Maria della Salute in Rome in the Primavalle neighborhood in Rome’s fifth municipality. Like others on the “periphery,” the neighborhood deals with a high rate of poverty, crime, and homicide.