I spent an afternoon with Pope Francis, who paid a surprise visit to the girls hosted by the Pope John XXIII Community. His visit was a happy surprise for these daughters forgotten by everyone, except for the Holy Father, who embraced them and listen to them with palpable humanity. Bergoglio chose to come visit our humble abode in the suburbs of Rome, but above all, in the existential suburbs where people are used only to satisfy one’s own perverse instincts, then discarded and abandoned on the sidewalks.
His ability and a deep desire to listen to the tragic stories of these creatures was truly incredible. With tears in her eyes, Anna, a girl from Moldova, told her terrible story of sufferance on the streets, where she was sold, raped, and tortured; Stefania, who showed the Pope also the scars left on her body and her ears cut off by her pimp. Gloria and Kate, from Nigeria, pointed out the ordeal of trafficking from traveling through the deserts, lack of food, the constraint of having to drink urine due to lack of water, their desire to die and finish it all.
Then, there was the moving story of the last girl, who arrived just on the eve of the Pope’s arrival. She approached Francis and told him about the hell she was coming from, where she had been forced to give birth alone and see her little daughter die in her arms. Stories that deeply moved and impressed even those who choose every day to spend their lives alongside these invisible women.
Pope Francis has always harshly criticized this inhuman scourge and it is only thanks to him that some media realize that the phenomenon exists and is more extensive than one might think it is. Finally, Bergoglio pronounced the following strong and unequivocal words: “I beg your forgiveness on behalf of all Christians for the violence you have suffered. I beg your forgiveness in this Holy Year of Mercy also on behalf of all those Catholics and believers who contributed to this market, exploiting and hurting you. We will most definitely continue to urge the rulers to face the terrible scourge of prostitution. It will be my task to continue to urge them to become aware of it.”
The Pope paid for the girls’ drinks, served and embraced them several times. He was visibly touched. It looked like he wanted to stay longer with us… We sang together and one could see he felt at home among the poor and the last of this world.
Thank you, Your Holiness, for visiting these women destroyed by an inhuman society, whose best proposal is to reopen brothels and invest in slavery.
I think that our founder, Father Oreste, will rejoice immensely from above. I think there has been his design behind all this. Shortly before his death, he had said that even afterwards, if he were allowed to Paradise, he would not stop his endeavors. And I had no doubts about it.
Sometimes I wonder how much he bothers angels and saints in Heaven – as he used to do with the powerful on earth – to pay attention to the weakest. Then, Pope Francis came, speaking a language that is very similar to that of Father Orestes. And one could see in his docile caresses to these enslaved women that heaven and earth come together to set them free.