Pope in Bologna: Visits a thousand refugees and eats lunch in the cathedral with the poor
The first stop during the pope's trip to Bologna was this center for foreigners, where a thousand immigrants and refugees live. To feel included as one of them, they gave the pope this symbolic gesture.
It is the same bracelet each person receives when they arrive to the shelter. The pope's was personalized with his name and his own number. Most of the residents come from Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and many of them were rescued at sea. Pope Francis spent a long time greeting them one-by-one to and taking photographs with all those who asked him. Then he gave them compelling words of encouragement.
"Do you know what you are? You are "hope fighters." Some did not arrive here because they were swallowed up by the desert or by the sea. Men do not remember them, but God knows their names and welcomes them to Him. Let us all take a moment of silence to remember them and pray for them."
The pope continued with his visit, presiding over the Angelus accompanied by workers and businessmen. He invited everyone to work together to "increase decent work opportunities."
During lunchtime, the city's cathedral, one of the largest in Europe, became a large dining hall for refugees, the poor, the sick and prisoners.
"You are in the center of this house. The Church wants you in the center. She has not prepared just any place or one set aside, rather in the center and all together."
Some 1,400 people shared a table with Pope Francis, who immediately had a meeting with the diocesan clergy afterwards. To the priests, seminarians, and religious men and women from Bologna, he asked them "to flee from clericalism like the plague."
In his last encounter, the pope spoke about the university world. Bologna is known for having one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Italy. Pope Francis invited the students to dream big and never settle for mediocre.
"Do not conform to small dreams, dream big."
Finally, Pope Francis celebrated Sunday Mass at the city's stadium. There, before 40,000 people, the pope asked Christians to live by incorporating three pillars into their lives.
"The first is the Word; which is one's compass to walk humbly, not swaying from God's path and falling into worldliness. The second is bread, Eucharistic Bread, because everything begins in the Eucharist. Finally, the third is the poor.”
This ceremony concluded the pope's intense visit to the small diocese where Pope Francis wanted to encounter everyone so they could feel the closeness of the bishop of Rome.