This is the open letter to the Pope handwritten on a pad by Massimo Coppo, while he was in penance on the Town Hall Square in Assisi:
I am writing from the Town Hall Square of Assisi, where I am staying since your letter in response to that of Eugenio Scalfari was published. I am praying and fasting for you, on my knees in a corner of the square: just as I was staying in Saint Peter's Square during the two days of the Conclave, on my knees on a sewer to pray "for a poor Pope, close to the poor and who would speak of eternity", as I replied to anyone asking me about the reason of that penance. And it was Pope Francis! A Pope who has surprised us, consoled us and made us rejoice with what he said and what he has done in these first months of his pontificate, in particular because the Church might return to be poor and close to the poor.
But I was bewildered instead by what you wrote in response to the question posed to you by Dr. Scalfari: "if the Christian God forgives those who do not believe and do not search faith". Your reply: "God forgives those who follow their conscience…" made exult that part of the public who absolutely has no desire to submit to the Gospel nor to the magisterium of the Church, and it was diffused by so many newspapers and televisions, in a more or less distorted way: as the long-awaited good news for a world that has closed the sky in the face of God and of his Christ, but even in its beeing lost, wants the endorsement of the Vicar of Christ.
I permitted myself to write you with a certain audacity, but as a son of the Church that sees you a father appointed by God. I love the Catholic Church, to which I returned after having abandoned her at the end of highschool studies. After 2-3 years of agnosticism I became an evangelical - I was studying at the University of Perugia at that time - and I have remained so for 10 years. Until the Lord - this was in 1980, I was running a Biblical University Center in the heart of Perugia - has rescued me and brought me back to mother Church thanks to a man from the land of Assisi, Marcello Ciai, who founded the "Community Families of Bethlehem", of benedictine inspiration, to which I still belong. He, as my spiritual father, helped me to discover the preciousness of the Church especially in its Saints and in the Sacraments - I must say that I have "discovered" the Bible, as the Word of God, in the protestant world -. For me Assisi, where I pass all of my time dressed in sackcloth and barefoot, in imitation of Saint Francis, has meant salvation and engagement of apostolate towards the so many tourists and pilgrims who come here every day.
From Assisi I ask you with all my heart that you could publicly say a word of explanation regarding what you have written to Scalfari about faith and conscience: so that those who do not want to repent and believe in the Gospel would not find a pretext. Instead would be honoured the engagement of so many that still today as in the past are ready to fulfill, even until pouring their blood, the mandate given by Jesus: "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 16:15-16)
September 12th, 2013