Pope visits with 35 priests at St. Henry parish in Rome

Pope Francis makes a pastoral visit to St. Henry Parish in Rome's 11th Prefecture, meeting with 35 priests and Auxiliary Bishop Daniele Salera.

Apr 08, 2024

Bishop Salera describes the area to the Pope

By Salvatore Cernuzio
The Pope resumed his periodic visits to the parishes of the Diocese of Rome on Friday evening.

At around 4 PM, he traveled to the northeastern part of the Italian capital to meet with priests of the 11th Prefecture at St. Henry Parish in the Casal Monastero neighborhood.

The Holy See Press Office announced the visit on Friday.

Pope Francis returned to making periodic visits to his Diocese in September 2023 following a pandemic-induced pause.

These visits represent a continuation of his “Fridays of Mercy” during the 2015 Jubilee of Mercy, which saw the Pope travel to parishes on the periperies of Rome.

Welcoming neighborhood marked by difficulties
St. Henry parish—the fourth visited by the Pope in recent months—was built between 1997 and 1998 in a modern style with a wooden structure, surrounded by parks and playgrounds and various medieval remains.

It is located in the 11th Prefecture of the Diocese, in a small, welcoming neighborhood with sparse traffic where the noise of transport does not seem to be invasive.

Local residents, however, seem to suffer a general sense of abandonment and neglect of the area.

Conversation with the priests
Pope Francis arrived in his usual compact car, and was welcomed by Bishop Daniele Salera, Fr. Massimiliano Memma, the parish priest, and 35 priests of the Prefecture.

The Pope held a closed-door dialogue with the priests on pastoral issues facing the area.

As he met with priests, around 50 local residents gathered to greet the Pope as he left the parish.

They consisted mainly of grandparents, women, and schoolchildren, along with several nuns who work in the parish.

Several chaplains from Rome's Rebibbia prison offered the Pope the opportunity to address difficulties experienced in prisons, starting with the high risk of suicide, as well as the Church's mission to accompany inmates.

Bishop Salera told the media that some of the chaplains informed the Pope that work and study are often "opportunities to qualify their path and reactivate them to a new life."

"The presence of the chaplains of the Rebibbia prison led the conversation to centre around the conditions of hardship of the inmates," he said.

Mercy, youth, Jubilee
All the priests and deacons were "very happy with this meeting", according to the auxiliary bishop, who noted that one of the other topics of conversation was "mercy", addressed to categories of people who feel distant from the Church, including those who have abandoned the priesthood.

In light of the upcoming Jubilee, Pope Francis said he was "happy with the way the Diocese of Rome is living the Synod and the path leading up to the Holy Year."

Finally, Bishop Salera noted that the topic of "the presence of women in the formation of priests" was also discussed.

Visit of John Paul II
Pope Francis is the second Pope to visit St. Henry Parish after Pope St. John Paul II, who in February 2002 celebrated Mass on the first Sunday of Lent (it was the 301st Roman parish visited by the Polish Pope).

"Yours is a young community," said Pope John Paul II at the time, "largely made up of newly formed families, who have settled in the neighborhood over the last decade... Many children and young people populate it, cheer it up and make it lively."

The Polish Pope said the area has endured over time, despite the lack of elementary and middle schools, which were built only in recent years.--Vatican News

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