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Rome Reports

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Bars, Restaurants, Shops... and Franciscan friars?

It's a picture perfect setting. Right next to Rome's Tiber River, a line of shops, restaurants and bars come to life during the summer.  It's a place to hang out and have fun. Amid all the movement, there's one unit that stands out from the rest. It's a stand run by Franciscan friars, right in the heart of all the social buzz.  FR. PAOLO FIASCONARO  "This is all about evangelizing on the street. So that mission is only possible when you're out where the people are.â?  So, every night at about eight o' clock, Fr. Paolo Fiasconaro gets to work. From handing out information about the Order's mission, to giving out these cards where people can write to Pope and share their spiritual and personal mission. Other times, they are simply there to listen.  FR. PAOLO FIASCONARO  "Some people just walk up to us and say 'thanks for being here,' which is really nice to hear. We've also had young people come up and ask if they can go to Confession right then and there.  I always say, 'yes of course.'â?  He says it's all about accessibility and a mission Pope Francis has given to priests, religious and the laity: to go out to the peripheries and reach out to people.  This year has been a success. Next year, the friars are hoping to take things a step further.  FR. PAOLO FIASCONARO  "It would be great to celebrate Mass here at night on Sundays. We could ask local parishes to get involved. Hopefully next year, we can make it happen.â?  During the summer, roughly two million people walk along these riverbanks to see all the shops. It has all the elements of a perfect Roman holiday. Now, thanks to these Franciscans, the experience can also have a spiritual dimension.  KLH  MG -SV -PR Up LOA