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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Pope Francis arrives in Milan

At 7:15am today, the Holy Father, Pope Francis departed from Rome's Fumicino international airport to begin a pastoral visit to the Archdiocese of Milan.

Upon his arrival at the Milan-Linate airport, the Pope was welcomed by His Eminence, Cardinal Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan; the Honourable Roberto Maroni, President of the Region of Lombardia; Doctor Luciana Lamorgese, Prefect of Milan; Doctor Giuseppe Sala, Mayor of Milan; Doctor Paolo Micheli, Mayor of Segrate, and by other personalities.

The Holy Father then paid a visit to the Forlanini neighbourhood - to the White Houses in Via Salomone where, at 8:38am, he was welcomed by Father Augusto Bonora, Pastor of the parish of San Galdino.

Pope Francis then visited three families in their apartments and greeted the residents in the courtyard outside the White Houses.  He then met with representatives of Roma families, Islamics, immigrants and residents from the neighbourhood.

Greetings of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
offered in the courtyard outside the White Houses

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Thank you for your welcome, such a warm greeting!  Thank you, thank you very much!  It is you who welcome me at the entrance to Milan, and this is a great gift for me: to enter the city and to meet you, your families, a community.

And I thank you for the two gifts that you have offered to me.

The first one is this stole (the Holy Father placed it on his shoulders), a typical sign of priesthood, which touches me in a special way because it reminds me that I come here in your midst as a priest, I enter into Milan as a priest.  You did not buy a ready-made stole; rather, you made it here, it was woven by some of you, in an artistic way.  This makes it much more precious; it is a reminder that Christian priests are chosen from among the people, chosen to serve the people; my priesthood, like that of your own pastors and other priests who work here, is a gift from Christ, but it is woven by you, by your people, with your faith, your efforts, your prayers, your tears ... All of this I see in the sign of the stole.  Priesthood is a gift from Christ, but it is woven by you, and this I see in this sign.

And then, you have given me this image of your little Madonna: how it was before and how it is now, after its restoration (he showed the image to the people).  Thank you!  I know that the little Madonna welcomes me to Milan, the spire of the Duomo (Cathedral); but thanks to your gift, Our Lady already welcomes me here, at the entrance to the city.  And this is important because it reminds me of the kindness of Mary, who ran to meet Elizabeth.   This concern is seen in the solicitude of the Church that does not remain at the centre waiting, but goes out to meet everyone, on the peripheries, goes out to meet even non-Christians, even non-believers ...; she brings Jesus to everyone, Jesus who is the love of God made flesh, who gives sense to our lives and saves us from evil.  Our Lady goes out to meet others, not to convert them, no! ... but to accompany them on their journey through life; and this is also the fact that the Madonna was waiting to welcome me at the door of Milan helps me to remember times when as a child, as a young man, as I returned from school, my mother would be waiting at the door to welcome me.  Our Lady is a mother!  She always arrives first, ahead of us, in order welcome us, to wait for us.  Thank you for this!  Another significant point is restoration: your little Madonna was restored, like the Church always needs to be restored, because she is made up of us, we who are sinners, all of us, we are all sinners.  Let us allow ourselves to be renewed by God, by his mercy.  Let us allow our hearts to be polished, especially during this time of Lent.  Our Lady is without sin, she has no need of being restored or polished, but her statue needs to be cleaned, and as a Mother, she teaches us to allow ourselves to be polished by the mercy of God, in order to be able to bear witness to the holiness of Jesus.  Speaking fraternally, a good confession will do us much good, it's good for everyone!  But I also ask your confessors to be merciful!

Thank you with all my heart for these gifts!  And above all else, thank you for being here, for your welcome and for your prayers which accompany me at the entrance to Milan.  May the Lord bless you and may Our Lady protect you.  Please don't forget to pray for me.

And now, let us pray together to Our Lady.

The Pope prayed a Hail Mary with those who were present and then gave them his blessing.

Good bye!

At the end of his visit to the White Houses in the Forlanini neighbourhood, Pope Francis travelled by car to the Cathedral of Milan for a meeting with priests and consecrated men and women.
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