by Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – “I like to dream of a church that lives the compassion of Jesus,” Pope Francis told more than 7,000 priests, religious, catechists and parish council members from the Diocese of Rome.
If every parish embodies the virtues of compassion, tenderness, patience and welcoming, the Catholic Church will be the mother she claims to be and will continue to generate numerous children, the pope said June 16, opening the Rome diocese’s annual convention.
In a 35-minute talk, most of which was off the cuff, Pope Francis responded to the concerns expressed by a pastor and two catechists about the difficulties of keeping families active in parish life and, consequently, in transmitting the faith to children and young people.
Father Gianpiero Palmieri, pastor of the parish of San Frumenzio, told Pope Francis that in the Diocese of Rome programs for preparing children for first Communion are still popular, but half of the children do not go on to prepare for confirmation, which the diocese usually administers to young people between the ages of 12 and 14.
Pope Francis told convention participants that before joining them for the evening session, he stopped for coffee in the kitchen of the guesthouse where he lives. The cook was still there, and the pope asked him how long it would take him to get home; the man responded that his commute was about an hour and a half.
“An hour and a half to go home to his children, his wife,” the pope said.
Pope Francis said he knows that many parents get up early, take their children to school, go to work – sometimes places of “tension and conflict” – and often get home immediately before or even after their children have gone to bed.
In such situations, he said, it is natural for parents to feel like they have “a crushing weight” on their shoulders and they wonder, “Is this living?”
If parents are so overburdened and dissatisfied, he said, how can they help their children discover the meaning of their lives and “the direction to take so that their lives are beautiful and they are happy to get up each morning?”