Men in White – the Friars visit the Pope

Day X / 4 of August
Friars visit the Pope

What an eventful day, the 4th of August! The General Chapter culminated in a papal audience and in the feast of St. Dominic, which in Bologna is celebrated by tradition on this day. In 1216, Pope Honorius III confirmed the Order of the Preachers and yesterday, Pope Francis thanked the friars for their 800 years long service to the Church.

The day began rather early. In Bologna, at 5.50 am the sun had not yet risen, but, the Capitular Fathers and your Chronicler were outside the Basilica, boarding the buses which would carry us to the train station. So began our journey to visit His Holiness Pope Francis in Rome.

To wake at such an early hour was not the only feat that our Dominican Friars had to accomplish. No less an achievement was to wear our habits “in nota ordinis” (i.e. with mantel and hood) under the raging Italian sun, which kept us company from Bologna to Rome and back.

At 6.40 we were taking our seats on the “Red Arrow”, the not-so-terribly-slow Italian train, leaving Bologna and heading to Rome. The friars could enjoy the air-conditioning, take the opportunity for a short nap or for a brotherly chat or for praying the rosary. In Rome, the day would become very hectic.

At 9.00 we were outside the train station “Roma Termini” boarding  the buses, which would carry us to the Vatican. Since were escorted by the Vatican Police, we were able to pass through the traffic jams and reach our destination with speed. We arrived exactly on time. And so did Pope Francis.

At 10.15 His Holiness Pope Francis addressed us, while we were sweating under our nota ordinis. Your industrious Media & Communication Team provided some live-tweeting and the rest of the friars snatched pictures with their smart phones.

Fr. Bruno briefly addressed the Pope, recalling the main outcomes of our General Chapter.

Then, his Holiness stood up and spoke.

The Pope reminded us that the Preacher is a contemplative of the Word, because “without a deep personal union with Him, preaching may be very perfect, very rational, even admirable, but it will never touch the heart, which is what must change”. When we preach – he underlined – we should remove our shoes, as Moses did in front of the fire, because both the Word that we say and those who are listening to us are holy ground and, therefore, they deserve a deep respect. Pope Francis urged us to be Preachers of truth and mercy, making every effort to give an answer to those who are thirsting for a Word of life. They are the living body of Christ and in meeting them we rediscover of the passion for preaching. His Holiness concluded his speech inviting us to keep in mind these people, as we revise our constitutions.

And everybody promised in his heart that he would do so, whether at the General or next Provincial Chapter.

After his speech, each of us had the chance to greet him personally. With great emotion even I approached the bishop of Rome, introduced myself and asked him for a special prayer, whose content shall remain private.

At 12.00 all mantels, hoods and habits were in our bags, while we were eating and drinking, amazed by the imperial sight of Rome, which you can enjoy from Santa Sabina.

At 15.30 all were sitting and snoozing again in a “Red Arrow” on our way back to Bologna, apart from your Chronicler, who was writing what you are reading right now.

At 18.00 almost everybody was taking a shower.

At 19.30 We were ready for a very solemn Mass with Bishop Matteo Zuppi. Just to be sure, although everybody had the time to take a shower, large amount of incense was used to give a fresh fragrance to the Church.

At 20.30 There was a large buffet for Capitulars and friends and the exhausted Fathers made a last effort to celebrate together the feast of St Dominic and the achievement of the General Chapter.

Photos courtesy of L'Osservatore Romano

The Chronicler

(05 August 2016)