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Pope Francis: in Barbiana, “today the Bishop of Rome recognises” in Don Milani’s life “an exemplary way of serving the Gospel, the poor and the Church”

“Before I conclude, I cannot but say that the gesture I carried out today wants to be a response to that request which Don Lorenzo had repeatedly made to his Bishop, that is, that his faithfulness to the Gospel and the righteousness of his pastoral activities be recognised and understood”. Pope Francis’ solemn tribute to the figure of Don Milani marked the end the Pontiff’s strictly private visit to Barbiana. “In a letter to his Bishop – Pope Francis said on the grass adjacent to the church, during the only event of his visit open to the public -, he wrote: ‘If you do not recognise me today with a solemn act, all of my apostolate will seem a private matter…’. If I remember well, Card. Silvano Piovanelli and the Archbishops of Florence after him have given Don Lorenzo such recognition. Today the Bishop of Rome gives him this recognition too. This does not cancel the bitterness that has accompanied Don Milani in his life – it is not about erasing or denying the past, but rather understanding its circumstances and what is at stake from a human point of view -, but shows that the Church recognises in his life an exemplary way of serving the Gospel, the poor, and the Church herself”. “With my presence in Barbiana, and my prayer at the tomb of Don Lorenzo Milani, I believe I can give an answer to what his mother hoped for”, Pope Francis said, citing the hopes of mum Alice: “I do wish that priests would be known, that the truth would be known, that the Church would be honoured also for what he has been in the Church, and that the Church would honour him… that Church which made him suffer, but gave him the priesthood, and the strength of that faith which, for me, remains the greatest mystery of my son… If we fail to understand the real figure of the priest, the priest that Don Lorenzo was, it will be difficult for us to understand other things about him. For instance, his profound balance between firmness and charity”. The priest “as transparent and hard as a diamond”, the Pope concluded, citing the description of Don Milani given by Don Bensi, “continues to shine the light of God on the path of the Church”. “Take the beacon and take it forward!”, the mission entrusted by Pope Francis at the end of his address. Then, greeting those present on the grass adjacent to the church, he continued off the cuff, saying: “May I, too, follow the example of this good priest”. Then he addressed the priests, saying off the cuff: “Priesthood knows no retirement, so let us all move on with courage!”.

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