Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap
Growing is the number of people who are getting a phone call from Pope Francis. As it stands it is really a grace that the Holy Father would sacrifice some time for you. By itself that demonstrates how important you are!
The first phone call that comes to mind is the one Pope Francis did to the leaders of the terror-stricken French city of Nice. In that phone call the Holy Father, humbly and generously, asked what he could do to help when a truck, driven at full speed through a crowd assisting to a firework display to celebrate Bastille Day, the French national holiday, left 84 people dead and more than 100 injured. Some of them battling for their lives. Pope Francis made that solidarity phone call, out of the blue, on Sunday July 17 to Paolo Celi, head of Amitié France-Italie, which is a national associations for Italians living in France and to Christian Estrosi, mayor of nice.
Celi revealed that the Pope phoned around 7pm on Sunday evening whilst “apologizing because he doesn’t speak French very well”. The first thing Pope Francis said was asking about how he could help. “The first thing he said to me was, ‘What can I do for you?’” Celi said that the Holy Father promised to meet “as soon as possible” with the families of the victims. In fact he maintained his word yesterday, Saturday 24 September, when he recieved relatives and loved ones of the victims of the attack in the Vatican’s Paul VI’s Hall at noon.
Christian Estrosi, mayor of Nice, said that Pope Francis’ gesture of giving a phone call revitalized in him theenergy he needed to keep handling the situation. Furthermore, Estrosi state that the Pontiff’s phone call has comforted thousands of people who are sustaining the victims’ families. “The image of all the flowers, theletters, the toys that have been put on the Promenade to pay tribute to the victims is an image that no one will be able to forget, but the Pope’s words and the comfort he brings alleviates this terrible memory and gives strength and hope to all”.
In another instance an Italian man, Pietro Maso, who served a 22-year sentence for killing his parents also received a phone call from the Pope. Maso said that the phone call occured in the morning in 2013 while being at home. “It was 10 a.m., and the phone rang,” Maso said. “I was with Stefania, my partner. I answered and heard: ‘I’m Francis, Pope Francis’. Taken by emotion, I said aloud: ‘Holiness’. I had written a letter in which I said, ‘I’m sorry for what I did, I ask for prayers for my co-workers who accepted me despite what I’ve done, [I] ask for a prayer for those who work for peace’,” the former inmate recalled. He said that he found God when he was in prison. The transformation he underwent made him a completely different person. He said: “First I was evil, but now I pray. I want to dedicate my life to helping others.”
When he lost the job he had in 2013 and got separated from his wife Maso moved to Spain. He feels that he wants to offer a second chance to those who are swimming in the same rough waters he was swimming in. He said: “I want to welcome those who did wrong and are out in the streets. I want to give a different meaning tomy life. Only those who are foreigners understand the foreigner. Only one who was in prison understands others who were.”
These are two examples of how Pope Francis’ unexpected phone calls bring peace and healing. These Papal phone calls amply show that the Holy Father lives what he preaches. On July 10 2016, in his Angelus address, Pope Bergoglio said: “Do good works, do not just say words that go to the wind. A song comes to mind: ‘Words, words, words.’ No. Please, do. Act. And by the good works that we do with love and joy for others, our faith grows and bears fruit”.
Does not a supporting phone call to a person in need demonstrate love and joy for others? Is it not a sign of a growing faith that is bearing fruit? So, emulate the example of this famous phone caller!