Loreto. This past March 25 was the solemnity of the Annunciation, recalling the announcement of the Angel Gabriel to Mary, in whose womb the Word of God assumed human nature, giving beginning to the mystery of redemption. It was on this occasion that Pope Francis traveled in pilgrimage to Loreto. The Pope describes this Shrine as, “a privileged place for contemplation of the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God. Here, in fact, we have preserved the very walls from Nazareth within which, according to tradition, the Holy Virgin pronounced her ‘yes’, becoming the mother of Jesus. Ever since this place has been known as ‘Mary’s house’ it has been a venerated and loved presence on this hill, and the Mother of God has not ceased to obtain spiritual gifts for those who, with faith and devotion, come here to pause and pray.”
The Holy Father’s visit to Loreto was marked by many beautiful and moving moments. He met with pilgrims, with the sick, and with the mothers of newborns. But above all the day was about the signing of the post-synodal exhortation Christus vivit addressed to young people. The exhortation will be published on April 2.
In his remarks in the piazza, before ten thousand pilgrims, the Pope did not fail to address a special word to the Capuchins, who for many years have cared for the Shrine of the Holy House. Among other things, he said, “a special thought goes to the Capuchin Fathers, to whom the care of this celebrated Shrine, which is so dear to the Italian people, is entrusted. Bravo! to the Capuchins! [Italian: Sono bravi questi Cappuccini! – trans.] They are always in the confessional, always, as soon as you enter the Shrine and there’s always at least one of them there, or two or three or four, but always, both during the day and at the end of the day, and this is a difficult work. They are bravi and I thank them especially for this invaluable ministry of the confessional, continued during the whole day. Thank you!”
The Pope also made a request:
“I also kindly ask the Capuchin friars to do something more: to extend the schedule and keep the Basilica of the Holy House open during the late evening and even into the night when there are groups of young people who come to discern their vocations.”
Pope Francis also specified the identity of the Shrine as the ‘house of young people’ – a place of vocational discernment in the three moments of listening, discernment, and decision – the ‘house of the family’ and the ‘house of the sick.’ And to all he entrusted the mission of, “bringing the Gospel of peace and life to the people of our time, often distracted, taken in by earthly interests, or stuck in an atmosphere of spiritual dryness.”
In conclusion, let us recall that since March 25, 2015 the Capuchin fraternity of the Loreto Shrine, previously entrusted to the Province of the Marches, has been a house depending directly on the General Minister. This was established by a decree signed on that day by Archbishop Giovanni Tonucci, Territorial Prelate of Loreto, and Br. Mauro Jöhri, then General Minister of the Capuchin friars. For this reason, the current General Minister, Br. Roberto Genuin, was present at the day’s events in order to welcome the Holy Father.
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