One million gather in Monza for Pope Francis

MARIELLA RADAELLI and JON VAN HOUSEN

An outdoor cathedral dominated the field of trees and flowers in bloom last Saturday as Pope Francis celebrated Mass for a joyous multitude of the faithful in Monza Park, the largest park in Europe within a city.

On a day of ethereal beauty, about one million people attended the ceremony on a day full of solemn rituals and meetings in Milan: in the morning Pope Francis visited a housing project and poor families on neglected outskirts of the city, then met with priests and the consecrated in the Duomo before giving the Angelus prayer in the piazza. He had lunch with a hundred prisoners in San Vittore Prison, then later in the afternoon back from Monza, had a meeting with the “cresimandi” gathered in San Siro stadium.

Rousing enthusiasm continued throughout the Mass in Monza Park, the centerpiece in a day of devotion. Many spoke of being in Pope’s presence as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Pope Francis in Monza, Italy
Parishes from across Italy and other countries organized groups that made a pilgrimage in the morning through the 7-sq-km park in Monza, the largest in Europe within a city.

Veronica Pezzotta, 45, had tears in her eyes when she arrived with her child and husband from the outskirts of Monza. "It's such strong emotion,” she said.

As he clasped his hands to pray, her husband Gino Lecchi, 56, said “today I'm so happy. There is something so special about him.”

The faithful chanted their love, snapped pictures and waved flags as the Pope arrived shortly after 2.40 p.m. and circled the field in his Popemobile as a stunning chorus sang “Tue Es Petrus” (You are Peter).

Mass was concelebrated by Cardinal Angelo Scola and three other cardinals from the Ambrosian lands (Gianfranco Ravasi, Francesco Coccopalmerio and Renato Corti). It blended liturgy, oratory and music in a solemn and festive occasion: the Feast of the Annunciation, one of the most important in the Church because it celebrates the actual incarnation of Jesus.

“We have just listened to the most important annunciation in our human history,” said the Pope beginning his homily. The biblical account of the Annunciation is in the first chapter of St. Luke, which describes the news given to the Virgin Mary that she will become the mother of the incarnation of God. It records the “angelic salutation” of Gabriel to Mary.

“Today we are invited to remember our past and to not forget where we come from,” said Francesco. “To not forget our ancestors, our grandparents and all they've been through to reach where we are today.”
Pope Francis in Monza
Francis arrived about 2:40 pm and toured the crowd in the Popemobile.

Talking to the inhabitants of the Ambrosian lands he said: “This land and its people have experienced the pain of two world wars; and sometimes they saw their deserved reputation for industriousness and civilization polluted by dissolute ambitions. Memory helps us to not remain prisoners of speeches that sow cracks and divisions as the only way to resolve conflicts. Evoking memory is the best antidote available to us before division and estrangement.”

The Pope also exhorted the Milanese to continue being a multicultural and multiethnic land because “this is a great treasure”.

“You are people called to host differences and diversities, to integrate them with respect and creativity and celebrate the newness that comes from others,” he said, adding that the Milanese are “not afraid to embrace boundaries and borders; it is a people not afraid to give warmth to those who are in need it because they know that the Lord is there.”

“When we believe that everything depends on us only, we remain prisoners of our abilities, our strengths, our myopic points of views,” said Francesco. “But when we let others help us, advise us, when we open ourselves to grace, it seems that the impossible begins to come reality.”
Pope Francis in Monza, Italy
The massive crowd listened to the Pope’s homily, which stressed the need for acceptance of diversity and work for the poor.

He said that the Ambrosian lands are very aware of this since in the course of their history “they have given birth to many saints and missionaries that represented the spiritual abundance in the life of the Church. So many faces that overcame a sterile and divisive pessimism, they opened to God's initiative, becoming a sign of how fertile and fruitful a land can be if it doesn’t close off in its own ideas, its own limitations and own abilities but opens to others instead.”

The Pope encouraged the Lombards to preserve their openness to immigrants, give social support to the poor and work for the future of young generations. “There is exploitation of life, work and families. They take advantage of the poor and migrants; they take advantage of the young people and their future. Everything seems to be reduced to figures,” he said. “They let many families’ daily lives be tainted by precariousness and insecurity. While pain is knocking at many doors, while dissatisfaction is growing among many young people due to the lack of real opportunities, speculation is abundant everywhere.”

He said we can stay assured that “God continues to seek allies, continues to look for men and women who are capable of believing, capable of memory and feel part of His people in order to cooperate with the Spirit's creativity. God continues to walk our neighborhoods and streets”.

“God goes everywhere in search of hearts capable of listening to His invitation and make Him become flesh here and now.”

Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan, thanked the Holy Father at the end of the Mass.

“Your gestures give us a significant prospect for the evangelization of our city in Lombardy. In particular, embracing the poor and the immigrants, your patient greeting of the prisoners, one by one, your lunch with them, your gestures remind us to pray for the victims of the London terrorist attack as well and their loved ones and also for two prisoners who took their lives here at the Monza prison two days ago,” Cardinal Scola said.

“Your gestures, your examples, your culture of people, your teachings that form a whole in the Church’s teaching, show us the path because Jesus Christ is our peace. Jesus is beauty, truth, goodness and justice. May Jesus, of which all women and all men of our lands are in need, reach all those who live there and touch their hearts.”

Mentioning the Evangelii Gaudium, a 2013 apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis on the joy of the Gospel, ‘‘the poor have a lot to teach us”, he said.

“It is true that the gaze of the poor in its painful simplicity enlightens and broadens our glance which is too often so partial,” Cardinal Scola stressed. “And the European outlook is too subdued by excessive intellectualism and too much trust in technocracies and analysis.”

Showing that action, not analysis, is crucial the Archbishop gave keys to restored homes to 55 poor families in the Archdioceses of Milan.