Today Pope Francis met with a group of Italian priests. Rather than delivering his prepared remarks, he chose to take questions from the assembly. During that conversation, the pope told the following story:
Two years ago, a priest went to Argentina as a missionary. He was from the Diocese of Buenos Aires and he went to a diocese in the south, to an area where for years they had no priest, and evangelicals had arrived. He told me that he went to a woman who had been the teacher of the people and then the principle of the village school. This lady sat him down and began to insult him, not with bad words, but to insult him forcefully: 'You abandoned us, you left us alone, and I, who need of God's Word, had to go to Protestant worship and I became Protestant.'
This young priest, who is meek, who is one who prays, when the woman finished her discourse, said: 'Madam, just one word: forgiveness. Forgive us, forgive us. We abandoned the flock.' And the tone of the woman changed. However, she remained Protestant and the priest did not go into the argument of which was the true religion. In that moment, you could not do this.
In the end, the lady began to smile and said: 'Father, would you like some coffee?' 'Yes, let's have a coffee.' And when the priest was about to leave, she said: 'Stop here, Father. Come.' And she led him into the bedroom, opened the closet and there was the image of Our Lady: 'You should know that I never abandoned her. I hid her because of the pastor, but she's in the home.' It is a story which teaches how proximity, meekness brought about this woman's reconciliation with the Church, because she felt abandoned by the Church.
And I asked a question that you should never ask: 'And then, how things turn out? How did things finish?' But the priest corrected me: 'Oh, no, I did not ask anything: she continues to go to Protestant worship, but you can see that she is a woman who prays. She faces the Lord Jesus.' And it did not go beyond that. He did not invite her to return to the Catholic Church.