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Family sharing of Pope Francis in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians

By Fr. Boedi Yohannes, SDB (ITM)

Valdocco June 21 - The only EAO pilgrims – eyewitness - who participated in this memorable event was the 35 lay mission partners and Friends of Don Bosco group from our Parish of St. John Bosco (Sunter - Jakarta, Indonesia) accompanied by their parish priest Fr. Yohanes Boedi Soerjonoto. Thanks to precise organization the group was able to join the Pope’s visit between Mornese and Annecy pilgrimage.


During the first day of two days visit of Pope Francis to his ancestral land of Piedmont was spent between six main events: in the morning the encounter with the world of work, followed by the Eucharist in Piazza Vittorio and lunch with the migrant, gypsy family and 11 youth of Torino Juvenile prison. In the afternoon Pope Francis arrived to Valdocco, continued to Cottolengo and the last was the youth meeting again the large Piazza Vittorio (50.000 participants). Thanks to two thousands of volunteers and to wonderful synergy between the Holy Shroud exhibition event (April 19 - June 24) and the 200th Birthday of Don Bosco celebrations it was well prepared Feast Day. Pope Francis who came as ‘nephew’ of Piedmont origin visibly enjoyed each single encounter.


During the morning Eucharist he quoted a famous local poet about the Piedmontese character: hard working, creative, hard headed, sober with few words. During the lunch with the migrants and prison inmates was also present their long serving Fr. Domenico Rica, SDB who commented about the creativity of the youth to get at least the signature of the Pope on their napkin.


The peak of the day for the whole Salesian Family was obviously the family encounter at 3 PM with prayer, songs and blessing of Mary Help of Christians in her Basilica at Valdocco. Present were both Mother General FMA and her complete council as well our Rector Major with his council, together with more than 15 SDB provincials from many European countries.


During his more 30+ minutes spontaneous talk Pope Francis delivered a kind of ‘long good night talk’ sharing personal experience of his Salesian roots, as Salesian student, as devotee to Mary Help of Christians and much influenced by many SDB personal friends to his own family: ‘I’m so grateful to the Salesian Family for many great gifts in my life!’


Among the different topics of his ‘Salesian conference’ the most striking was the focus on Mary, motherhood included in the ‘Three white love’ of Don Bosco (Eucharist, Madonna and the Pope) and well the ongoing stress on education for affective maturity as the key to effective transformation of the young through deep experience of joy and self-giving.


The thanksgiving tone continued through all his sharing, including his personal encounter with Fr. Chavez in Aparecida (about the Beatification venue of Ceferino Namuncura) or first personal encounter with Fr. Artime (in the confessional of National Marian Shrine near Buenos Aires). Appreciation of the concrete ways of Salesian way of education starting in the playground, preparing the youth with technical education for their life revealed his deep love for Don Bosco.


Again back after 6 PM at Piazza Vittoria packed with the young people, Pope Francis continued his family way of talking to the thousands of young and not-so-young people answering to their 3 questions – about Life, Love and Friendship. Even in this large even the Salesian family was mentioned many times. For those who like to read the full story of Pope Francis and Don Bosco, the English version of this book is available on the BOSCOLINK: https://www.bosco.link/index.php?document_srl=4385&mid=sdbinnews.


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