Vatican City, Feb 8, 2014 / 08:05 am
Pope Francis will say Mass March 27 in the grotto of the St. Peter's Basilica for the members of the Italian parliament, according to a letter written by an auxiliary bishop of Rome.
"I am pleased to inform you that on March 27, at 7 a.m., the Holy Father Francis will celebrate a Mass in the 'grotto' of Saint Peter's Basilica with the members of Parliament," wrote Bishop Lorenzo Leuzzi, an auxiliary of the Diocese of Rome and chaplain to the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Italy's parliament.
The letter of invitation was sent to each member of Italy's parliament.
Pope Francis "wishes to meet the requests of many members of the Italian parliament to partake in the morning Mass," he continued.
The news has not been officially confirmed by the Holy See press office, but Bishop Leuzzi's letter was leaked to Italian media this week.
According to a source in the chancery of the Diocese of Rome who spoke to CNA Feb. 6, "Fr. Lombardi should confirm the news in the following days."
The source maintains "the Mass will be strictly private, and none of the members of parliament will be allowed to be accompanied by a member of their families."
It is expected that at least half of the members of parliament will confirm their presence at the Mass.
According to the source, Bishop Leuzzi "had several requests from Italian politicians to take part in a daily Mass with the Pope."
In December, Bishop Leuzzi had a private audience with Pope Francis, during which he received a relic of Bl. John Paul II, which has been placed in the chapel of the Chamber of Deputies, Rome's St. Gregory of Nazianzus parish.
At that audience, the source explained, "Bishop Leuzzi will have asked the Pope for a Mass with the members of parliament."
The daily Mass will be held in the Vatican grotto so as to allow all the parliamentarians to attend.
Located just below the Renaissance basilica and above Constantine's fourth century basilica, the grotto can be filled with up to 1,000 persons.
The Italian parliament consists of two houses: the Senate, of whom there are 315, and the Chamber of Deputies, of whom there are 640. There are also a small number of "Senators for Life."
Pope Francis has often spoke about the need of politicians to care for the common good, and his deep sense of the importance of politics may guide his Mass with the parliamentarians.
In his apostolic exhortation "Evangelii gaudium," Pope Francis wrote, "I ask God to give us more politicians capable of sincere and effective dialogue aimed at healing the deepest roots – and not simply the appearances – of the evils in our world! Politics, though often denigrated, remains a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good."
And during his Sep. 16 Mass, he preached, "Let us pray for leaders, that they govern us well; that they bring our homeland, our nations, our world, forward, to achieve peace and the common good."
The Pope then stated that the "word of God helps us to better participate in the common life of a people: those who govern, with the service of humility and love, and the governed, with participation, and especially prayer."