When exactly at 7 PM on Thursday, the Holy Father stepped on the threshold of that shop, it was more than merely a stroll outside the Vatican walls. Many people have interpreted this action as a moment of “rebellion” towards the strict protocol that confines the daily life of the Pontiff inside the Vatican. But the meaning of this action is different: an appeal to the hearts of the powerful ones rather than a caress to the people. To break the protocol does not mean to go shopping, but rather to show how the era of privileges, of the distance between those who command and those who obey, has come to an end.
They are all Men, on the same level, without distinction of wealth, race, ethnicity, or religion. By so doing, Francis puts action next to words and practice next to preaching. And sets an example – because this is what he does – of how the “other” should be understood. For politicians, there is also a further suggestion: they should go to the same places where citizens go, pay as they do, think as they do when instead of choosing the last arrival, he prefers to change only the lenses “in order to save”. The world needs acts and symbols: the Pope has understood it.
Certainly, the wonder of Alessandro Spiezia, an optician from the Babuino street for his entire life, was huge when he saw the Pope himself entering his shop. “It is the first time that someone as the Holy Father comes there personally. Years ago – he says – I sent him the glasses, but through his secretary. The contact was indirect. This time it has been really exciting, also because his simplicity and modesty are truly disarming”.
“He came in wearing the classic garment … I had been warned about it, but I was expecting him to be dressed in a less formal way, instead he has walked in dressed in white, all silver, no gold… The most striking thing of all has been to see him arriving alone with the driver, without his escort. To sum up, he has walked in entered to buy new glasses, the same way two thousand people do so every. I told him: ‘Holiness, thank you for coming to my shop. I have been working here for 48 years, and this is a long time… ‘
“Oh yes, a whole life passed among people. Even when the devastating fury of the black bloc in reached and entered his shop in 2011. It was set on fire, thousands of euros of damage… “I remember that episode well. It was terrible. They destroyed everything”. Today, as if by contrapasso, global visibility has not been obtained by Spiezia due to a terrible event, but because of an event that has re-launched his brand in the world in a positive way.
“With Pope Francis – he continues – we talked about everything except aesthetics, we have focused on the technical part and the type of the glasses, a very simple and modest one. He already had three or four pairs, at that point he said: so, what shall we do? We only change the lenses, not to spend too much money. Holiness – I have replied – I totally agree with you on that point. And, indeed, we have chosen… the most simple glasses. It had nothing special, just a minimalist frame. He could not have done a simpler choice…”
When the visit was over, they took a picture together, “that was dutiful for all the years I have worked here. I thanked: you have honoured me with your presence and this is not an experience everyone can live”.
“Then – continues Alessandro Spiezia – the panic at the doors, to make him get into the car… there was a crowd waiting for him outside”.
What did you think while he was checking his sight? “While measuring the sight of those special eyes… I had to keep calm, because I have said to myself: these are the eyes of the Holy Father, what he has seen and sees every day, we cannot see”
How much did he have to spend? “No discounts. He will pay when the normal invoices will arrive, as everyone else”
What is the condition of the Pope’s eyes? “Good, very good. A regular situation, he has taken a simple multifocal to see sharper from near and from far. There is nothing pathological. I have said to him: Holy Father, hopefully we will see better things in the future than those we see today”. A hope that, in these dark times of war, exodus, deaths, and despair, we cannot but share…