Josefa Rodríguez and Amaro Pesquero were not expecting to receive a letter from Pope Francis.
But that’s exactly what happened last September, when the Pope himself thanked them in his own handwriting for the donation they had made for the persecuted Christians in the Middle East.
Josefa and Amaro are a married couple from Fuenlabrada, Madrid, Spain, who made a pilgrimage to Rome on the occasion of the Holy Year of Mercy in August 2016.
“My wife bought a prayer book on Divine Mercy and got in contact with this apostolate so they could send her more books so she could to give them away to others. Then they informed her that there was going to be a pilgrimage to Rome and we signed up," Amaro Pesquero told CNA.
But in addition to going on pilgrimage for the Jubilee, the retired couple brought a gift that they had gathered together with a lot of effort and that they wanted to give to the Holy Father: a sum of money they wished to donate for the persecuted Christians.
“We wanted it to be for the persecuted Christians of the Middle East, because we thought that they’re the ones who need it the most right now," Amaro said.
At the general audience in Saint Peter’s Square, they gave the envelope with the letter and the money to their fellow pilgrim who was going to greet Pope Francis on behalf of the entire group and who was able to personally hand it to the pontiff.
It was a sum of money that they never thought would get a response, but Pope Francis replied to them in his own handwriting, thanking them “for this gesture of concrete charity" along with two holy cards with prayers to Saint Joseph and Saint Therese of Lisieux.
Amaro explained that “the letter was late in arriving because it didn’t come by ordinary mail, but in the diplomatic pouch of the Diocese of Getafe."
“Someone at the Diocese came to our house, but we weren’t there and when we returned, our neighbor told us we needed to go there to pick up something important," he said. “We went and it was from the Holy Father."
In his letter the Pope told them: “I have received your letter of this past Aug. 2 with the donation included…to help the persecuted Christians, particularly in the countries of the Middle East."
“I thank you from the heart for this gesture of concrete charity and ask the Lord to abundantly reward you. I ask you, please, to not forget to pray for me so that I can be faithful to the Lord in this ministry. May Jesus bless you and the Holy Virgin care for you."
However, this is not the first time that a pontiff wrote to this couple from Fuenlabrada – Saint John Paul II also thanked them for a similar gift.
As the couple told CNA, “we were able to greet Pope John Paul II in person, we shook hands with him and gave him a donation. He replied to us through his secretary and he also sent us a small card showing his thanks in his own handwriting."