One manager of Centro San Lorenzo, Jhoanna Climacosa, 27, said she finds it a "true joy," to serve in that place, which is "at the heart of the Church, at the heart of Rome, and through which pass many pilgrims from every part of the world."
Prior to its new life as a place of evangelization and welcome for pilgrims, especially youth, the church spent a few decades as a study center and the studio of artist Pericle Fazzini, who completed his large bronze sculpture of "the Resurrection" in 1977, and which stands at the back of the Vatican's Pope Paul VI hall.
The façade of St. Lawrence in Piscibus was hidden from sight when part of the area surrounding the Vatican, Rome's Borgo neighborhood, was destroyed in the late 1930s to 1940s to construct the grand thoroughfare of Via della Conciliazione, which leads up to the main square and entrance to St. Peter's Basilica.
The church was preserved from demolition, but a large palazzo was built around it, marking the start of the Pio XII Square in the style of an ancient Greek "propylaea," an architectural term which means a gateway building.
After different renovations over the centuries, one which gave it an ornate Baroque design, for structural and financial reasons it was eventually returned to what is believed to be its original, bare-stone Romanesque appearance.
Around the same years that John Paul II founded the Center, the Shalom Community was beginning in Brazil, though this is the first time their movement has been given the care of the youth center.
Cristiano knew the place from years earlier, as a seminarian studying in Rome. "Somehow I always felt connected with the church," he told CNA. "I never imagined I would come to work here and to evangelize here." His first Mass in Rome, after being ordained in Brazil, was at the Center in 2015.
"Now it's a new time, a Kairos of the youth of the Church," he said, referencing a Greek word which means "opportunity," or "a propitious moment for decision or action."
"We feel honored and we feel called by God to be at the service of the Church exactly at this time," he said, explaining that he believes there is "a very difficult spiritual war taking place right now."
"With the scandals and difficulties, God's Enemy doesn't want to see this Kairos happening in the Church. So, we need to fight against it, which we do by praying," he stated.
This article was originally published on CNA Oct. 11, 2018.
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Hannah Brockhaus is Catholic News Agency's senior Rome correspondent. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has a degree in English from Truman State University in Missouri.