“Today the Holy Father will receive in audience the young men of the youth detention facility, Casal di Marmo.” Gimmy looks around. It’s the second of December and yet it seems like the first signs of winter have only just arrived in Rome. However, the chilly weather doesn’t bother him, even though he’s wearing just a t-shirt and a light jacket. He looks out at St. Peter’s Square, at the pilgrims rushing in, and takes his place a few feet from where Pope Francis will be within a few moments. “After the audience, you will all have a chance to take a picture with the Holy Father,” announces one of the gendarmerie.
Gimmy grins and looks down at his baby, who hasn’t left his side for a minute since the departure from the jail at 7AM, that morning. He knows that if he holds the little one close, he can shield him from the cold with his light jacket. Gimmy wants to let him feel his warmth and his affection. Every now and then, surrounded by the confusion of the piazza, the young man appears to be whispering to his charge. “Don’t worry,” he seems to say, “I’m here with you.” The baby, fixing him continuously in the eyes, smiles up at him from between open arms.
Finally, the time comes for the photo opportunity. Gimmy ascends the stairs and finds a place in the front row. From here, he thinks to himself, he will be able to greet the Pope and get him to bless his baby.
Pope Francis arrives. He’s tired from his trip to Africa, but as soon as he sees the group of young detainees, he lights up. He begins to exchange greetings first with Father Gaetano, the chaplain of the juvenile prison, and then Father Nicolò, our priest who ministers at the same prison. Then, the Holy Father begins to greet the guys, one by one.
Gimmy’s turn finally comes. Excitement is written all over his face. He kisses the papal ring with great fondness, exchanges a few words with the Pope, and then bursts out suddenly: “Holy Father, could you give a blessing to my baby?” Francis looks at him, surprised, then catches the gaze of the baby who smiles up at him, his arms spread as though poised to embrace the great man dressed in white. The pope traces a long blessing over the baby and after looks up at Gimmy with eyes shining.
25th of December. Christmas Mass in the chapel of the juvenile prison. The guests arrive a few at a time: the seminarians of the Saint Charles and a few of the Missionary Sisters, and a handful of volunteers. After, the young men and ladies who are being held at the prison. It’s the first time this year that the masculine and feminine sections of the prison will attend Mass together.
To restore order, Father Gaetano takes up the microphone and makes a few announcements: “Silence, please, and listen up. Before the Mass we will have the procession, which will be led by Gimmy, who will bring “his baby” to the altar. Following him will be the celebrating priests.” Gimmy has been waiting by the altar for some time already, holding the minute Baby Jesus, just about cuddling with him.
The procession begins. Gimmy, under the eyes of everyone present, carries the Baby Jesus towards the cradle set up in front of the altar. He arrives, bends down, and, delicately, as if trying to make him as comfortable as possible, lays the baby down in the straw. He rises and the first thing that meets his eyes is the gaze of the Christ-child, smiling up at him.