International News

Pope’s Detour Surprises Immigrants

Pope Francis visits Latin American immigrants in Rome
Latin American immigrants in Rome greet Pope Francis during an unscheduled stop Feb. 8 while he was en route to a nearby parish. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via EPA)

ROME (CNS) – When Pope Francis walked through the gate surrounding a group of shacks and very humble homes, it took a while for people to notice. In fact, when a couple of people looked out their doors, the pope’s chief security guard motioned them to come over.

“Papa Francisco!” someone shouted in Spanish, and then dozens of people came running Feb. 8. The pope made an unannounced stop at the settlement on his way to the nearby St. Michael the Archangel parish.

The settlement on the northeastern edge of Rome was once a Gypsy or Roma camp, but now is mainly inhabited by Latin American immigrants, who have found no other place to live. The residents kissed the pope’s hand and clicked photos of him with their cellphones. As they pressed against him, he said, “Let’s pray to our Father in heaven. How many of you speak Spanish?”

“All of us,” they responded, so with the pope they recited the Lord’s Prayer in Spanish.

He gave them a formal blessing, and then told them he had to be going since he had promised to spend the afternoon at the parish.

At the parish, the pope delivered 100 sleeping bags for the homeless assisted by the parish and the Sant’Egidio Community. He met with a group of children and with the parents of babies baptized in the past year. He also heard the confessions of a few parishioners, the Vatican said.

In his homily during the evening Mass, Pope Francis told parishioners that Jesus’ public ministry was all about preaching and healing.

The pope said people should ask themselves, “Do I let Jesus preach to me or do I know everything? Do I listen to Jesus or do I prefer to listen to almost anything else, maybe people’s gossip or stories?”