“Hey Martina, how did your day go?” “It was great, mom! Guess what? I saw the pope and then we went to play in Villa Dora Pamphili! I’m happy.”
Martina is one of the 7000 middle schoolers, one of the “Knights,” who come from all over Italy as well as from abroad, who last June 2nd were received in audience by Pope Francis. A couple of months back, this girl, when her parents encouraged her to consider joining a tennis club, chose the group of friends that meets every Saturday in our parish, the Navicella. Intrigued, her parents began to frequent the parish. They saw that she was happy and that they themselves were welcomed and embraced.
It was natural that weekend to see the expectation for the meeting with the Pope written on the face of every kid. You could tell they were bursting to, even for just a second, touch his hand, or to lock eyes with him, or to receive a blessing. After the impressive and disruptive silence of the 7000 kids during the recitation of the Angelus and of Morning Prayer, the most beautiful thing was to see how expectant they were, an anticipation with a touch of impatience and bolstered by some healthy adrenaline. A continual unrest, typical of when you wait for someone important, for someone who you care much about.
Pope Francis, at the entrance of the Aula Nervi, found himself in the middle of a block of about 150 Roman youngsters, who welcomed him. On the right were those of the Magliana, guided by Fr. Dino Goretti, and on the right were those of the Navicella with Fr. Luca Speziale. A jungle of small hands made the Pope’s forward progress a bit slow, but he was not at all disturbed by the screams and the joy of the kids. On the contrary: like a true father, every step of his held a gaze, a blessing, or a smile, as he looked in the eyes at all those who were in front of him. The best scene was that of Sofia who, after a handshake, received a simple “Ciao!” directly from the Pope. Moved, she immediately burst into tears. Who will ever forget a day like that?
After the audience, the Roman middle schoolers were lined up in Indian file along the street in Gianicolo, headed in the direction of Villa Doria Pamphili. They were joined by others from Spain, from Como and from Cuneo, as well as some students from areas closer by to Rome. In a large forest of maritime pines, which seemed to be made just for that occasion, they played together, for almost two hours. Afterwards, everyone returned home, ready to tell all about how beautiful it is to live with such a company of friends.
Pictured, a snapshot of the audience of Pope Francis with the middle school students in the Aula Nervi, June 2nd. Among them were some kids of our parish of St. Mary of the Rosary (photographic service of the Osservatore Romano.)