ASTI, Italy — With several of his cousins and their children and grandchildren present, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the Asti cathedral, giving a nod to his family roots and drawing people’s attention to the root of Christian faith: the cross of Jesus.
The Mass Nov. 20, the feast of Christ the King and World Youth Day, was the only public event during the pope’s weekend visit to the region from which his grandparents, Giovanni Angelo Bergoglio and Rosa Vassallo, and his father Mario immigrated to Argentina in 1929.
The visit was timed to coincide with the 90th birthday of Carla Rabezzana, the pope’s second cousin. And, after landing in Portacomaro near Asti Nov. 19 and stopping for a prayer in a village church, Pope Francis headed straight to Rabezzana’s house for lunch.
After lunch, the pope visited a nearby home for the aged and then headed to the little village of Tigliole to visit another second cousin, Delia Gai. The cousins and their families joined an estimated 4,000 people for Mass with the pope the next day in the Asti cathedral.
In his homily, sprinkled with words in the Piedmont dialect his grandmother taught him, Pope Francis focused on how the kingship of Christ is different from any idea people usually have of a king.