The Redemptorist, Fr. Francesco, confessor of Pope John XXIII, of cardinals, prelates, priests, religious and Roman seminarians and many lay faithful, died in Rome, in the General House of the Redemptorist Fathers, on 13 June 1922. An hour before he expired, he had listened, from his bed of pain, to the last penitent!
As is well known, this year marks the first Centenary of the death of Redemptorist Fr. Francesco Pitocchi (1922-2022), an event that his home community wished to celebrate with various initiatives.
At the centre of these initiatives has always been the community of Vico in Lazio, Italy. The parish priests who have succeeded one another over the years, the diocesan bishops, some relatives of Fr Francis and the faithful have gathered every year at the commemoration of his death in prayer before his venerated remains, kept in the main church of Vico, the Collegiate Church of San Michael, where they were moved in 1960.
The occasion of the First Centenary of his death was a privileged one, to put the charismatic figure of Fr Pitocchi back at the centre of the community’s attention. In collaboration with the parish priest and all the parish organisations and confraternities, the Fr. Francesco group took steps to organise a day in which a moment of study and a Eucharistic celebration of thanksgiving would come together.
Our valuable collaborators were the Redemptorist Fathers of the Roman Province. In particular, we had the joy of having Father Provincial Antonio Cirulli and the young Redemptorist Davide Velocci, who currently is the only living Redemptorist from Ciociaria. With them arrived Fr Vincenzo La Mendola, who is a historian and well-known scholar of Fr Pitocchi, to whom in 2018 he dedicated his doctoral thesis entitled Il Redentorista p. Francesco Pitocchi nella Roma religiosa tra fine ottocento e inizio novecento (The Redemptorist Fr Francesco Pitocchi in religious Rome between the late 19th and early 20th century).
Our guests attended the day of study and prayer held in Vico on 30 June 2022. Welcomed by the community, already gathered in the church of S. Maria, they were the protagonists of this celebratory event.
Opening the proceedings, with greetings and the introduction of the theme, was parish priest Luigi Battisti, who in his speech emphasised the highly spiritual aspect of the celebrations taking place, giving a warm welcome to all those present.
Next, Primo Pica, a member of the group inspired by the spirituality of Fr Francis, took the floor. In his speech, Pica mentioned historical figures, local and otherwise, who have worked for the memory of Fr Francis.
The next speaker was Fr Provincial. With his smile and warm and immediate words, Fr. Antonio urged everyone to pause, deepen and learn more about the holiness figures who have marked the history of our community for their relevance and the spiritual message they can give to Christians today. He said that these days, rereading the biography of Fr. Francis, he felt drawn to this charismatic figure, who also has much to say to his Redemptorist brothers and priests today.
Then Fr Vincenzo La Mendola presented his talk entitled: The Spirituality of Fr Francesco Pitocchi. In the 45 minutes set aside for his presentation, Fr. Vincenzo, abandoning his notes, spoke off the cuff, retracing the existential story of Fr. Francesco and dwelling on the moments and personalities that contributed to the formation of his spirituality.
Once in the church, the solemn celebration of thanksgiving took place for these one hundred years of Pitocchian memory and for life and work at the service of the Church carried out by Fr Francis. The celebration was presided over by the Reverend Fr Provincial, with concelebrants Fr Luigi, Fr Cristoforo, Fr Mattia and Fr Vincenzo. Student Velocci performed the altar service. The parish choir animated the liturgy.
In his homily, the celebrant, referring to the Word of the Day, recalled the salient aspects of Fr Francis’ personality: his ministry in Vico as parish priest, his discernment and redemptive vocation, and his fruitful ministry as confessor and spiritual director of numerous seminarians, priests and lay people, lived in a spirit of service to the Church.
The celebration concluded with a floral tribute to the tomb of the Servant of God by the municipal administration and a prayer for his beatification.
May the example of Fr. Francesco’s life and his spiritual message continue to be for us and many Christians, seminarians and priests, a point of reference and a model to imitate in the generous service of God and our brothers and sisters in today’s Church.
Anna Rita Pica
The text above is a shortened version of the article, which is available in full content in Italian