ROME — After battling traffic for an hour, Pope Francis arrived at St. Mary, Mother of Hospitality Parish on the far eastern edge of Rome for a meeting with area priests and a visit with people housed in 12 apartments the parish owns.
Vatican News described the parish as being in “the most peripheral periphery of Rome,” an area of economically poor families, few public services and vibrant parish life.
The pope arrived at the parish shortly after 4 p.m. Nov. 16 and spent more than an hour in dialogue with about 40 priests, including hospital and university chaplains and priests who staff the dozen parishes in the Diocese of Rome’s 17th prefecture, an area similar to a deanery. In late September, he had met with a group of priests from a prefecture on the western edge of the city.
After stopping to pray in the parish’s Blessed Sacrament chapel, the pope drank a quick cup of espresso and joined the priests in a meeting room to listen to their questions and respond.
Rome Auxiliary Bishop Riccardo Lamba, who was present for the meeting, said the meeting featured “a very open, cordial and familiar dialogue.”
The pope “encouraged all of them to continue the good work they are doing, continue being in the midst of the people and continue proposing the Gospel, even if there are difficulties,” the bishop said in a statement released by the diocese.
Vatican News reported that the 90-minute conversation was devoted entirely to the priest’s pastoral care of their people, including regarding the sacraments, poverty, welcoming people and evangelization.
Afterward, the pope went to the courtyard of the parish’s “Hospitality Village,” a complex of 12 apartments built in the 1980s when the church was constructed. The parish provides emergency lodging there for families, both Italians and migrants.
Father Rocco Massimiliano Caliandro, pastor, said the parish wanted to welcome whole families since many shelters are open either to men or to women and children.
Currently, he said, seven families live in the village while the other apartments are occupied by people waiting to be joined by their husbands or their wives and children.
With a group of volunteers and the support of the whole parish, Father Caliandro said, “we try to be close to these families both humanly and materially, offering them lodging,” as well as help with enrolling the children in school and finding jobs.