According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis receives a few thousand letters a week, which Correspondence Director Msgr. Giuliano Gallorini notes are read more with the pontiff’s “heart” than his “mind.”
“He reads these letters more with the heart than with the mind; to share the suffering” of others, Msgr. Gallorini told Vatican Radio on Jan. 28.
The letters, packages, drawings and objects that arrive at the Vatican on the Pope’s behalf are sent from all over the world, and are sorted by the Office of Correspondence of the Pope, located in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, which Msgr. Gallorini directs.
In their letters people ask for many things, the priest explained, whether it is advice on how to manage a turning point in their lives or asking for wisdom in the midst of hopeless situations. Some have even written the Pope a poem, or sent gifts, such as a scarf.
Most of the requests made are for “support and prayer,” he stated, but many also regard “the moment we are living - difficulties, especially diseases...asking for prayers for children, also describing situations of economic hardship.”
Reflecting on why so many people write to the now-famous Saint Martha house of the Vatican where the Pope resides, Msgr. Gallorini observed that it is because the people of today feel that Pope Francis is “near” to them in a special way.
“They try to feel the closeness of the Pope who captures their suffering, their distress, who is close to them in prayer.”
“Then, for what is possible, we help by directing requests to specific offices,” the priest continued, adding that “for example the requests for economic help are forwarded to the diocesan Caritas so that they can be verified, either immediately or more operational."”
Managing the high volume of letters is a small team of four, consisting of Msgr. Gallorini, a Religious Sister, and two others, Vatican Radio reports, revealing that the first step in the process of sorting is to divide everything by language.
Afterwards the letters are opened and read by the Office of Correspondence due to Pope Francis’ time constrictions, and the office then distinguishes the simple letters of greeting from those who seek solace and spiritual support from the Pope, or have and urgent need. These are the letters that arrive to his desk, the bishop explained.
“There are a little more delicate cases like cases of conscience,” Msgr. Gallorini noted, and “in this case, a note is made and passed to the secretaries because the Pope examines the content directly.”
“He definitely reads them, puts his initials and directs us on how we should respond.”
Although Pope Francis is unable to respond personally to all of the letters he receives, the priest assured that all who write the pontiff do receive a response expressing gratitude in the Pope’s name.
Writing the response of the Pope is a special task for those who do it, Msgr. Gallorini observed, because it requires a reply done with the specific tone of the Pope’s own style.
“He reads these letters more with the heart than with the mind,” the priest expressed, highlighting that their job then is “to share the suffering” of those who write “and search to find the right words to express how the Pope really wants to express himself.”
“Proximity, sharing...and truly in the style of sharing,” are the key themes to keep in mind when the responses are written, he continued, adding that “moreover the Pope has always said that the priest should live among the flock, the sheep. Hear and live the experience with them.”