Cardinal Bergoglio, February 28, 2013
Around the end of February 2013, some little brothers and sisters were called from different European fraternities to come together at Santi Quattro Coronati, our house in Rome. Thirty or so little brothers and sisters would thus be able to represent the Community and accompany the conclave with prayer, there in the very heart of the Church, which the basilica erected on the tomb of the apostle Peter symbolizes. We also wished to be present for the last audience of Benedict XVI, to express to him our communion and gratitude for everything the “humble and simple laborer in the Lord’s vineyard” had given to the Church.
The last audience of Pope Benedict XVI was scheduled on Wednesday February 27th, and his “departure from the See of Peter,” as he himself said, was the day after. Among the little brothers from Saint-Pierre (our Community home in France) who were sent off to Rome, there were two who found themselves at that moment in Paris. The French capital would thus be where they would begin their hitchhiking trip to Rome.
“We had four days for the trip. At the Porte d’Italie, we started hitchhiking from the morning onward… and at around 4 in the afternoon we were still there! Finally, a young man stopped and helped us out by driving us to a gas station outside Paris. It was getting late; we were asking the people going in and coming out of the gas station if they could bring us Lyons.
Soon a man agreed to give us a ride in his car, and quickly enough the ice was broken. We told him the final destination of our trip: Rome. And he said to us that he was going to Florence! But that evening, he was going to make a stop at his home in Lyons, and set off again the next day with his wife. Though he didn’t tell us how they would get there. He said that he and his wife were Catholic, but during the conversation we could feel that he had distanced himself from the Church and its teaching. In the car, the conversation was interesting and flowed easily. We touched on the most diverse subjects while listening closely to one another. After a while, as trust grew, we discovered that they planned to travel to Italy by car. If his wife agreed, they would welcome us in their home to spend the night, and then drive us to Florence!
After a short phone call with his wife, everything was arranged, and a few hours later, there we were truly pampered by Providence. The encounter with this couple was very beautiful. The discussion continued late through the night, and continued the next day in the car all the way to the gates of the Florentine city.”
Then from Florence, the two little brothers continued on their way, still hitchhiking, and arrived in Rome, the day before the audience.
February 28th was an emotionally charged day. It was the day when, at 8 p.m., Benedict XVI would leave the See of Saint Peter. In the morning, one of the two little brothers, the one from Argentina, visited Cardinal Bergoglio at La Casa del Clero to invite him to come and visit us. He, who was then Archbishop of Buenos Aires, is a long-standing friend of the Community. In 1994, he had invited us, both little brothers and little sisters, to found in the capital, in Buenos Aires.
He took advantage to ask about “the lambs”. He also wanted to know how the little brother had traveled to Rome, and then more importantly how the hitchhiking trip had gone. So the little brother started telling the story, and then finished by expressing a small hesitation: “You know, it’s surely the only time we will meet these people and…”
Detecting the little brother’s concern, Father Bergoglio said, looking him straight in the eye: “Why worry? That is what the new evangelization in the Church is about. Sowing! Sow the seed! Everywhere! And… it is Jesus who takes care of everything else. You have to trust in the Lord.”