The Pope receives Father Maccalli: a father’s embrace for a missionary from the suburbs

The emotion marks the voice of Father Pierluigi Maccalli at the end of today’s audience with Pope Francis who prayed for him for a long time together with the whole Church. They meet and tell each other a month after the missionary’s release in Mali: there is gratitude and disbelief in the face of the Vicar of Christ who bends down to kiss the hands of the priest

Benedetta Capelli and Gabriella Ceraso – Vatican City

After the embrace with the Pope, there are no words except “thank you”. Father Pierluigi Maccalli, missionary of the Society of African Missions, originally from Madignano, in the province of Cremona, released last October 8 after two years of imprisonment between Niger and Mali, retraces with Francis what he lived and entrusts to him his Africa, which has remained without a missionary guide. There is disbelief and the difficulty in expressing the gift of love received from the Pope, him a missionary from the periphery that the whole Church has carried in his heart, also thanks to the solicitation of the Pope:

Listen to the interview with Father Maccalli

R. – It was a very, very nice meeting. I was moved, above all by telling the Pope what I lived and then entrusting to his prayer, especially the communities to which I went and which have now been without a missionary presence and a priest for more than 2 years. I told the Pope to bring the Church of Niger with him in prayer. The Pope was very attentive, he listened to me very carefully. I also said a big “thank you” for having prayed for me, together with the Church, and then at the Angelus of the World Mission Day when he wanted this applause from the square for my release. I thanked him and he replied: “We supported you but you supported the Church”. I had no words in the face of this: I, a little missionary, and he who told me so … I really have no words.

What did receiving this caress from Pope Francis mean for you and for your history as a missionary marked, precisely, by this long rapture?

R. – It was the embrace of a father, this father that I carry in prayer every day. Here, finding him in front of me was truly an emotion and a feeling of great gratitude. I never thought that a missionary who goes to the peripheries of the world could one day find himself in front of the Pope himself, who supports the universal Church. These are difficult emotions to express… I kept saying, thank you, thank you, thank you.

A moment of the Pope's audience with Father Maccalli

A moment of the Pope’s audience with Father Maccalli

Is there a particular word that the Pope gave you and that you will also keep in your heart for the future?

R. – More than a word, a gesture. When we said goodbye, I shook his hand and he kissed my hands. I didn’t expect it ….

In the homily he gave yesterday in Rome. She said: I prayed with tears and the desert was an experience of essentiality. How much have these two years affected your faith?

R. – Tears have been my bread for many days and have been my prayer when I didn’t know what to say. I even wrote it down one day. I read in some rabbinic tale that God counts the number of women’s tears and I said to him: “Lord, who knows what men’s tears also count. I offer them to you in prayer to water that arid land of the mission but also the arid land of hearts that feel hate causing war and violence “. And then we go to the essentials in the desert. There you realize that it is essential to have water to drink, to have something to eat, even if it is the same food every day, onions and lentils and sardines. But you see that it is not the refined dishes that make the substance. So it is also in the spiritual life: what is worth is shalom, forgiveness and brotherhood, and as a missionary I feel even more urged to be a witness of peace, brotherhood and forgiveness, today and always.