From the L'Osservatore Romano:
An extraordinary note about Pope Francis' upcoming Holy Thursday Mass with young inmates and a glimpse of European reality:
"He expressly asked us to make sure that there were no other young people here. He wants to be certain that they know he is coming solely for them, because he loves them, he carries them in his heart and considers them important, very important.”
The Pope's congregation? Only 8 of the young men and women are Italian. The rest are foreigners - most of them Muslims. Some have no religious belief at all.
Many don't even know who the Pope is. Welcome to 21st century Rome.
“A young Neapolitan”, the chaplain confided, “who has been here for a while came to my help. He gathered them all together, to try to make them understand above all what the Pope's act, which is an act of love for them, actually meant. I was upset for a moment by the first looks, that were either blank or only faintly curious about my enthusiasm. Then our friend broke the silence with that most classic of Neapolitan expressions: “Maronna mia, o Papa accà!” [good heavens! The Pope here!] and he ran his hand through his hair, his face betraying emotions mingled with happiness. At that very instant all the others, seeing his amazement, realized that it must really be something very special and began to question me. Little by little, I saw their enthusiasm growing."
Stunning. Holy Thursday, not primarily as a liturgy for those already "inside" but reinvented as a missionary outreach to people, many of whom aren't even baptized, some of whom don't even know who the Pope is. Holy Thursday on the "peripheries".
The theological and liturgical implications begin to flash through my mind but I know that I don't have enough background to evaluate all that.
All I can do is think of the last portion of then Cardinal Bergoglio's pre-Conclave speech that so impacted the Cardinal electors.
"Thinking of the next Pope, he must be a man that from the contemplation and adoration of Jesus Christ, helps the Church to come out to the existential peripheries, that helps her to be the fruitful mother who lives from the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing."
This Pope really means it. This is so far beyond the ecclesial war categories that we were still embroiled in a mere two weeks ago. This is terra incognita.
A last, moving anecdote:
"A Caritas worker in the penal institute says that one of them, having heard the news, exclaimed: “At last I shall get to meet someone who says he is my father!”
A Shepherd seeking out those who are lost in the real 21st century Rome.