Pope Francis began a day trip to Milan on Saturday by visiting the poor and those who minister to them.

He had lunch at the city’s historic San Vittore prison, where all 893 inmates – men and women – are awaiting trial. But Pope Francis began his visit on the outskirts of the city, at the “White Houses”, a housing development for the poor built in the 1970s.

Three families welcomed the Pope into their apartments: Stefano Pasquale, 59, who is ill and cared for by his 57-year-old wife, Dorotee; a Muslim couple and their three children from Morocco; and the Onetes. Nuccio Onete, 82, was home for the visit, but his wife, Adele, had been hospitalised three days earlier, so the Pope spoke to her by phone.

The people of the neighbourhood gave Pope Francis a handmade white stole, which he put on before addressing the crowd. The fact that it was homemade, he said, “makes it much more precious and is a reminder that the Christian priest is chosen from the people and is at the service of the people. My priesthood, like that of your pastor and the other priests who work here, is a gift of Christ, but one sewn by you, by the people, with your faith, your struggles, your prayers and your tears.”

At Milan’s Gothic cathedral, Pope Francis met the archdiocese’s pastoral workers and responded to questions from a priest, a permanent deacon and a Religious Sister, urging them to trust in God, hold on to their joy and share the good news of Christ with everyone they meet.

Asked by Fr Gabriele Gioia about evangelisation efforts that do not seem to result in “catching fish”, Francis said the work of an evangeliser – of all Christians – is to set out and cast the nets: “It’s the Lord who catches the fish.”

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