Rome (Italy). On 12 November 2021, the presentation took place of the book “I made the Pope Christian” by Ferruccio Pallavera, published by the Vatican Publishing House (LEV), on the life of Fr. Enrico Pozzoli, Salesian of Don Bosco, the missionary who baptized Pope Francis on 25 December 1936, in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians and St. Charles Borromeo in the Almagro district of Buenos Aires.
Present at the presentation moderated by Dr. Lorenzo Fazzini, Editorial Manager of the LEV, were Mother Yvonne Reungoat, Mother General emeritus of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, Sr. Piera Cavaglià, Secretary General from 2002 to 2021, Sr. Pascaline Affognon, of the AFO Province, Sr. Lidia Jolanta Pazdzierz of Mary Help of Christians Community of the Generalate.
In the introductory greeting, Father Leonardo Sileo, Rector Magnificus of the Pontifical Urbaniana University, highlighted the missionary vocation of Fr. Enrico Pozzoli, a Salesian priest, “Knowing Fr. Enrico allows us to understand Pope Francis, a Shepherd with the smell of sheep, near to his people, to the poorest, discreet.” Originally from Senna Lodigiana, a small town in Lombardy (Italy), Fr. Enrico spent 58 years of his life in Argentina, spending himself alongside Italian migrants, including the family of Pope Francis.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and Grand Chancellor of the Urbaniana University, recalled the Christian and priestly authenticity of this missionary, who knew how to unite heaven and earth, evangelizing with deeply human relationships. “Those who approached Enrico Pozzoli received the impression of a simple and good person, gifted with the extraordinary ability to gather young and old around him.”
Fr. Pozzoli accompanied the people spiritually and concretely. “From the earliest years of priesthood, he showed an innate ability to dialogue with people, to gather the confidences of those around him, to take to heart the problems of those who came to him.” He was an apostle of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. “Jorge Mario Bergoglio, guided by him, did not enter the Salesian Congregation, but the Church gained a Pope!” In fact, he was able to accompany the young Bergoglio on his human and vocational journey, discreetly respecting his choice, as he himself said, “He was not the type of priest who made proselytes. He inquired and told me that the Jesuits would welcome him to their seminary in March.”
The Minister of Defense of the Italian Republic, the Hon. Lorenzo Guerini, a native of Lodi, spoke of the missionary fruitfulness of this territory where the Salesians of Don Bosco are present, describing the Lodi character which stands out for its audacity, openness, and missionary enthusiasm. “What shapes is the encounter with the other.” He recalled that Fr. Pozzoli returned to the village of Senna Lodigiana only four times, dedicated as he was to the mission as spiritual guide for young people and adults.
“He left a very strong memory. He was a simple Salesian, close to the people, a priest who worked a lot with Italian migrants. He was the friend of children and young people,” testified Fr. Àngel Fernández Artime, Rector Major of the Salesians of Don Bosco, who was Provincial of the South Argentina Province (ARS) from 2009 to 2013 and was able to personally get to know the places recalled in the book. The Rector Major reminded of the need to take care of today’s migrant brothers and sisters and to help young people discover their vocation in the Church and in society.
Ferruccio Pallavera, a journalist from Lodi and author of the book, thanked for the richness of the interventions. He described the origins of the publication, the demanding research work to find news on the priest, and the unforgettable meeting-interview with the Holy Father, thanks to which he was able to integrate the documentation and give a soul to his book, as well as a solid historical-biographical foundation.
In conclusion, the video of the Pope’s meeting with the young people Confirmed in Milan in 2017 was presented, in which he spoke of the Lombard priest who helped him to grow in his faith, “I will never forget that priest. He was an apostle of the confessional. Merciful, good, a hard worker. In this way, he helped me grow.”
In the extraordinary encounter with the participants at General Chapter XXIV, on 22 October 2021, Pope Francis donated the book “I made the Pope Christian” to the Mother General of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, Mother Chiara Cazzuola, with the invitation to follow the example of Fr. Enrico Pozzoli and the first Salesian missionaries, “to be generative communities in the service of the young and the poorest. Outgoing missionary communities reaching out to proclaim the Gospel to the peripheries, with the passion of the first Daughters of Mary Help of Christians.”