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Pope Francis: in Barbiana, “Don Lorenzo teaches us to love the Church”. “Without thirst for the Absolute”, one becomes “an official of the sacred”

“I wish to remind you all that the priestly dimension of Don Lorenzo Milani is the backbone of what I have evoked about him so far”. In his speech in Barbiana, the Pope addressed the priests who were accompanying him on his strictly private visit, as he requested: “I see elderly priests among you, who have spent the years of their seminary or their ministry in these places; and I also see young priests, who are the future of the clergy both in Florence and in Italy. In Don Milani, “everything flows from his being a priest”, Pope Francis said: “but at the same time, his being a priest has a deeper root: his faith. A totalizing faith, which becomes a total gift of self to the Lord and which, for the converted young boy, finds its fullest and most complete form in the priestly ministry”. Hence the topical words of Don Raffaele Bensi, his spiritual guide: “He came to me to save his soul. From that very day in August until autumn, he literally gorged himself on the Gospel of Christ. That young boy immediately set out for the Absolute, without compromise. He wanted to be saved and save others, at any cost. As transparent and hard as a diamond, he would immediately get wounded and wound”. “His being a priest was his way of living the Absolute”, the Pope remarked, who went on to cite the words of his mother, Alice: “My son was looking for the Absolute. He found it in religion and in the priestly vocation”.

“Without this thirst for the Absolute, you can be a good official of the sacred, but you cannot be a priest, a true priest, able to become a servant of Christ in your brothers and sisters”, Pope Francis admonished: “Dear priests, with the grace of God – the Pope’s invitation –, let us seek to be men of faith, a sincere faith, not a watered down faith; and men of charity, pastoral charity towards all those whom the Lord entrusts to us as brothers and children”. “Don Lorenzo also teaches us to love the Church, as he loved her, with that sincerity and truth which may also create tensions, but never fractures and abandonments”, the Pope remarked: “Let us love the Church, dear brothers, and let others love it, showing her as a caring mother for all, especially the poorest and the most fragile, both in their social life and in their personal and religious life. The Church that Don Milani has shown the world has this maternal and caring face, one that wants to give everyone the opportunity to meet God while also giving full meaning to their lives as persons in all their dignity”.

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