Upon his arrival in the Senate, he took everyone by surprise: Pope Francis, after reciting the Angelus in St. Peter's Square, climbed the 500 to cross the center of Rome to Palazzo Madama and pay homage, shortly after 13 pm, to the "servant of the homeland", to the president emeritus, but above all to his friend Giorgio Napolitano.
A bond that was born when the president was at the Quirinale: exchanges of visits and phone calls but above all a long relationship of mutual esteem. For this reason, Pope Francis, after an intense and tiring visit to Marseilles, from which he had returned late yesterday evening, decides that the words of the telegram he had sent to his wife Clio from the town French are not enough.
He wants to testify to his closeness which for Bergoglio is God's style: "closeness, compassion, tenderness", as he likes to repeat and as he has shown even today.
A quick, silent visit, without many protocols. He arrives in a wheelchair but to pay homage to Napolitano he gains strength: he gets up and leaves the stick for a few moments.
No religious gesture, no blessing to respect the choice of the family of the former president who wanted a secular commemoration. The Pope first offers condolences to Mrs. Clio, also in a wheelchair, and to Napolitano's children. Then, in front of the coffin, as a sign of respect he brings his hand to his heart; Finally, a long silence in which it is not difficult to imagine that he prayed.
"A memory and a gesture of gratitude to a great man, servant of the homeland", he writes in the book of dedications.
Even the Vatican in close turn makes it known that Pope Francis went to the funeral home "to express, with presence and prayer, his personal affection for him and his family, and to honor the great service rendered to Italy".
Video Napolitano, the Pope at the funeral home of the president emeritus
It is a recognition, that of the Pope, to the statesman, who was communist but also Europeanist, who interpreted politics with the rigor of the past but also with a reformist thrust; he was a non-believer but at the same time interested in the Catholic world. Napolitano is therefore a person open to dialogue between different cultures and ways of thinking: exactly what Pope Francis has been asking his Church for ten years.
The Pope's surprise visit moved the President of the Senate, Ignazio La Russa: "It is the first time that a Pontiff enters the seat of the Senate of Palazzo Madama", "it was a great honor for us". "He was very affectionate," he told reporters.
On the other hand, for the Argentine Pope, Napolitano was among "the greats of Italy". He had said this in 2016 making a very short list of the Italian personalities who had struck him: together with Napolitano he cited Emma Bonino and the former mayor of Lampedusa Giusi Nicolini. The president emphasized "the gesture of patriotic heroism" when he accepted the post for the second time.
The first handshake between Bergoglio and Napolitano took place on March 19, 2013, on the sidelines of the inaugural Mass of the pontificate.
On June 8 of the same year the visit of the Head of State to the Vatican, reciprocated by Francis a few months later, on November 14, when it was he who went to the Quirinale. A year later, on November 21, 2014, Napolitano went to Casa Santa Marta for a meeting, this time private, with Pope Francis, which lasted 80 minutes. But in between many messages, wishes, phone calls, in an atmosphere of esteem and cordiality.
Napolitano had also had a very intimate relationship with Benedict XVI; he was in the very close circle of people to whom Ratzinger had confided his intention to resign. "He was very tried and aware of a fatigue that was difficult to sustain," the president himself recounted on February 11, 2013, when Pope Benedict announced his resignation.
All rights reserved © Copyright ANSA