On Wednesday February 13, 2019, a group of the Neocatechumenal Way on pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Loreto (Italy), participated in the General Audience of Pope Francis in the Paul VI Hall of the Vatican. Some marriages they were placed, along with their children, in the front row, so that at the end of the audience they were able to greet the Pontiff and talk with him.
Below we reproduce the transcription of what happened and the words that Pope Francis dedicated to these brothers of the Way:
“I would like to express in these lines our experience of the Audience of Wednesday, February 13 with the Holy Father, at the end of the pilgrimage to Rome and Loreto.
We have had the honor of speaking a few minutes with the Holy Father Francis, together with other couples, in the final greetings, once the General Audience is over.
Given the significance of the words we received, for our marriage in particular and for the Neocatechumenal Way, after the audience, I took note of these words to try to be as faithful as possible to the conversation.
We are Juan Manuel and Cinta, responsibles of the fourth neocatechumenal community of the Parish of Our Lady of the O of Chipiona, with eight children. Little Santiago, five months old, has accompanied us on the pilgrimage. With us were present also David and Noelia with their third daughter, from the Parish of San Francisco de Arcos de la Frontera. Israel and Nazareth, had previously spoken to the Holy Father, with six children, another couple in our community, who brought Miguel, his little baby, on the pilgrimage. At the beginning of the Audience, a steward approached Israel and Nazareth, who was holding the baby, and took them to the front row to a place that was close to the Holy Father. The other two couples were located elsewhere.
We tried to get closer to the first row with the babies to be with the Pope but they did not let us. We found a fence that separated the Audience where there were several groups of French boys who were going to sing to the Holy Father, and I managed to go to one of the groups with the baby in my arms, David accompanied me with his daughter also. At that moment ,one of these stewards placed us placed in the front row and asked me to be silent and that the Holy Father was going to pass and if he wanted to stop he would. If not, he ordered me not to insist. I looked back, and I don’t know how Cinta, Noelia and Ana Mary had reached the corner where the police had blocked the way.
While all this was happening, the Holy Father, who had spoken to Israel and Nazareth, were the first to whom he greeted and asked about the children, how many they had, their ages … They asked the Pope to pray for theyouth, for the children… They have a special zeal for young people, also, just like we are godparents in the post-confirmation pastoral, and the Holy Father commented to them that the mission of the family before the difficulties of today is to be an evangelizers in this world. They recall the conversation with love, closeness, tranquility, flooded by the emotion, and the Holy Father gave them and the child a rosary and blessed Miguel.
When he passed me, I shouted at him: “Pope Francis, we are from the Neocatechumenal Way and we came from Pilgrimage to Rome and Loreto!”
He stood up, turned around and said to me: “that is a blessing!”. He approached us. I asked him to bless the little 5-month-old Santiago that I was holding and he asked me what number he was, I said ‘the eighth, Father’. He replied: “the eighth? You are the hope of the demographic winter that Europe is living, courage! And I am going to tell you one thing: you have to educate them in the faith, not to educate them with ‘nonsense and nonsense’, always be firm in the faith. You know, today in Italian society, it is a trend to buy a dog and train him to seek pure affection; when they educate according to the affection that each one wants, they are then not willing to die and they do not know that to die for their children is to find life, life is to have Christ. “
“Courage (he repeated), you are the Neocatechumenal Way, that hope that Europe of today needs, because of this society of today… what will be of them tomorrow? Will the dogs take care of them? No! How much suffering for not giving life. I encourage you, you are brave in this world where everything is against you, but trust always in Christ! Always walk! ”
The whole conversation was very initmate and affectionate. The Pope spoke to me very calmly and slowly and transmitted to me a peace that, together with the emotion of the moment, has been a seal for me; In that moment I said to him: ‘Father, there are the mothers there who the police do not permit to pass. ’ The Holy Father, very attentive and affectionate told me: “How so? Those ‘courageous’ mothers, where are they? The ones wing to give birth 8 times for Christ and are not allowed to pass? ”.
He looked at me, I indicated the area where they were, he raised his hands and shouted to the police: “let those ‘courageous’ mothers pass, they can bypass the police… ”
And when they arrived, he held out his hand and he practically repeated the same words again, maintaining his paternal and kind self the whole time.
He told us again, referring this time to my wife: “You are the hope in this demographic winter that Europe suffers! Courage, educate in the faith! ”
Cinta said to him: “Father, this is the eighth son!”. And the Pope responded by encouraging her: “you have to be responsible in the education of the children. Don’t educate them with nonsense or empty values, always be firm in the faith, and with love ”.
He invited us to pray the rosary as a family and he gave us one for the child and one for each of us and he said: the Virgin is your mother! “
He said goodbye very affectionately and we left, repeating these words to ourselves over and over again meditating on them.”