Pope Francis Surprises Families in Roman Condominium Garage for 'School of Prayer'

Pope Francis Surprises Families in Roman Condominium Garage for 'School of Prayer'

Vatican City - Pope Francis held his third session of the "School of Prayer" in a surprising location—a condominium garage in the western outskirts of Rome. This unconventional setting featured a gravel floor, brick walls, and ivy-covered surroundings. About thirty families from the nearby Church of St. Bridget of Sweden attended, some arriving after the meeting started, still in slippers or house clothes.

Families after Children and Teenagers
After previously meeting with children and teenagers, Pope Francis chose to engage with families in Rome's Palmarola neighborhood on June 6. The diverse group included new parents, grandparents, parish youth group members, infants, children, women from Senegal, an Orthodox man, and the district president. This impromptu gathering highlighted the spontaneous and communal spirit of the event.

The Arrival and Surprise
The Holy Father arrived in a Fiat 500L around 5 PM, greeted by a mix of silence, wide-eyed glances, and smartphones capturing the moment. As he greeted the crowd with “Good evening, everyone,” applause and cheers of “Viva il Papa!” followed. He handed out candies, took selfies, and blessed a woman’s request for a prayer for her mother.

Seated in an armchair, Pope Francis began a Q&A session, acknowledging the unusual setting and warmly addressing the families before him: “You are families, young people, less young, elderly, always the family.”

Not Discouraged by "Storms"
The Holy Father spoke on the importance of family, acknowledging its challenges and beauties. He referred to arguments and separations as "storms" that shouldn’t discourage. He emphasized resolving conflicts before the day ends to avoid prolonged tension, highlighting three essential words for relationships: “Sorry, please, and thank you.”

He reminded the audience that even simple gestures and words of gratitude, such as thanking someone for a meal, can make a significant difference. These small acts are crucial for maintaining harmony, especially for children who observe their parents' interactions closely.

"The Children Are Watching Us"
Pope Francis stressed that children suffer when their parents don’t get along and advised separated parents to educate their children about respect without speaking ill of each other.

The Mandate to Young People: Carry Forward the History
Four young parishioners asked how to increase faith today. The Holy Father emphasized the importance of testimony and urged young people to carry forward their history, emphasizing resilience and the importance of getting back up after falling.

"A Father Who Leads..."
One man expressed the desire for a larger church to serve as a community meeting point. The Holy Father spoke about the Church as a community of people rather than just a place of worship. A lady expressed her gratitude, noting Pope Francis' presence as a sign of genuine community leadership. She shared the challenges faced by their parish, which lacks adequate facilities but persists in its activities.

The Elderly, Wisdom. The Children, a Promise
Pope Francis reiterated the importance of not neglecting the elderly and taking care of children. He noted that the elderly are the memory of God’s people, while children are the promise for the future. He emphasized the need for a true Christian community to listen to both.

Loving Each Other as Family
Two fathers asked about maintaining faith and raising children close to the Church. Pope Francis advised parents to love each other, as children need to see this love. He suggested resolving arguments privately and maintaining open dialogue with children, emphasizing education through conversation without scandalizing or pressuring them.

Educating with Freedom
The Holy Father stressed the importance of allowing children to speak freely about anything, learning life's lessons at home rather than from potentially misguided external influences.

Greetings and Gifts

The meeting concluded with Pope Francis greeting everyone, distributing rosaries, and taking photos. He even spoke with “Grandma Maria” via Skype, asking her to pray for him. He left a picture of the Virgin Mary holding Baby Jesus for the families to keep as a tangible memory of the unexpected and heartfelt gathering.

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