Very early in the morning, along the roads still wrapped in the morning mist, the “Loppiano people” walked up towards the town, 20 km from Florence. The display of native costume and head-dresses of various colours reveal far-away origins. But nobody can describe himself as “far-away” from this little piece of world that is about to gather and adhere to the words of the Pope. Roger, 26, comes from the Ivory Coast. He has been living in the international town for just over a year.
“Ever since we got the news of the Pope’s visit, as citizens of Loppiano we wondered how we would have welcomed him, to make him see the people of the Gospel in this place. We divided ourselves in small groups to share the small daily experiences of the Gospel lived. This is the gift we wanted to make. And Franco Galli, co-director of the town, together with Donatella Di Paola: “This was the occasion for us to see God’s action.
Now we are waiting to hear what he will feel urged to say to us. Huge events are moving the world, and great changes are underway. The Pope will make us see the reality with his eyes.” Also Prahama Thongratana Tavorn called “Ardent Light” is here, surrounded by the group of Buddhist monks who, like him, arrived from Thailand. A “travelling monk” he travels across his country, visiting schools and jails to bring a message of peace everywhere. Luce Ardent feels very much at home in Italy, and especially in Loppiano. Upon approaching him one cannot but be enthralled by the joy which transpires from his words, in a gentle and very musical language. He explained: “In Buddhism we say that we have already met in our previous lives. This is why, when we meet, we do not meet, but recognize each other since we are already brothers, there is already something we have in common.»
Twenty minutes have passed since Pope Francis landed in the international town. But it seems like an eternity. Minutes imbued with emotions, the festive ringing of bells that express that sense of welcome which is beyond words. “The sun is back,” Gen Rosso sings, and really, the sun nobody thought would come, after the beating rain of the day before, is shining. Pope Francis, after passing through the joyful crowd enters the church dedicated to the “Mother of God,” to whom, simultaneously in the churchyard the notes of the song greets her as the “Sweet Mother.” Four years ago, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Loppiano,
Pope Francis had sent his wishes to the town saying “look ahead always, and reach for the stars with trust, courage and imagination.” And recalling these words, Maria Voce takes the floor. «We tried to let your words guide us. Thank you, your Holiness, on behalf of the entire Focolare Movement, which regards this visit of yours as God’s gaze of love on us.” After a presentation of the variegated profile of the town, some questions are posed, and upon answering, Pope Francis starts by saying: «Everybody feels at home in Loppiano. I wanted to come and visit because it aims to be an illustration of the Church’s mission today.”
The Pope called all to persevere, with tenacity, serenity, positivity and also humourism, “the human attitude which most leads us closer to God’s grace.” “The charism of unity is an aid in living the evangelical mysticism of the ‘we,’ that is, of walking together in the history of mankind. The opposite of individualism is the ‘we.’ In Loppiano – the Pope continued – you live the experience of walking together.” But, he warned, “the story of Loppiano is just beginning, a small seed sown in the furrows of history. Pressing needs ask the utmost of us. We have to commit ourselves not only to the encounter between persons, cultures and peoples, but to triumph together over the historic challenges to build a shared culture of encounter and a global civilization of alliance.”
“Change reality, fear will not stop me, I shall begin here and now.” On the notes of the bands of Loppiano, the appeal to build a new culture of the ‘we’ has taken flight and will break all its confines.