Rather than talk about the U.S. government shutdown and federal budget stalemate (or rant about it), I thought I would share a cheerier item that popped up on recent news feeds. I happened to hear about it from one of our colleagues with the International Catholic Rural Association*. He alerted us to a story originally published in La Repubblica, an Italian newspaper, earlier this month about a phone call.
The story was about Pope Francis and one of his now famous phone calls to someone who had sent the Holy Father a letter or gift. This happened to be Slow Food president Carlo Petrini; he had sent the pope a letter and a book about Terra Madre. Now Terra Madre is interesting to us here at NCRLC because it is about the network of farmers, fishers and food artisans who are trying to help us create a better way to eat that is respectful to producers, consumers, the food itself and even the land.
He received a call in the evening and a voice saying: “This is Pope Francis. I received your book and your letter, and I wanted to thank you.” As Petrini put it, “life brought me a surprise that I could never have imagined.”
Petrini wrote that he was amazed and delighted by a conversation with someone so highly notable, yet who felt like a friend, thanks to their common affection and esteem for the humanity of Terra Madre (http://www.slowfood.com/international/10/networks), the network of farmers, fishers, nomads and food artisans that meets in Turin every two years.
According to the account by Petrini, the Pope spoke about how his parents moved to Turin from the countryside around Asti, and eventually emigrated to Argentina.
But the equally interesting part of their conversation when they talked about the farming world. Petrini shared that “Pope Francis wanted to emphasize how precious the good practices of rural communities are to the world’s destiny.” On this subject in particular, the Pope had strong words: “The work of these people is extraordinary,” he said. “Accumulating money must not be the primary goal. My grandmother used to tell me that when you die, your shroud has no pockets for money.“
Petrinin wrote in his article that he has often heard many speak about the work of small-scale farmers as virtuous, but irrelevant for the economy. However, he has also heard some international figures expressing solidarity for the world of the humble, especially their role in defending the planet’s common goods. “It is extraordinary,” wrote Petrini, “how close Catholicism’s highest religious authority is to this second way of thinking.”
Petrini had previously written in his letter to the Pope that his grandmother was a practicing Catholic, but he himself was agnostic. However, this “absence of religiousness” in his adult life has not stopped him from sharing experiences and struggles with men and women of faith.
“If humanity wants to escape the desert of ideas that surrounds it,” Petrini writes in his article, “people who know how to communicate like Pope Francis will be of great value.”
Petrini also notes that by using the telephone, with no mediation, Pope Francis is able to express a refreshing sign of openness and directness. “One has the impression they are talking with a friend,” he wrote.
Their phone conversation ended with wishes of good health and, in a glorious mysterious way, “a mutual embrace.” As Petrini expressly put it in his story: “A world in which one can fraternally embrace a Pope is truly a beautiful world.”
* NCRLC is an active member of the International Catholic Rural Association. Indeed, Jim Ennis, our executive director, currently serves as its president. The Association does not have an active website yet; just a temporary landing page.
Click here for an article about ICRA posted in Independent Catholic News last year.