Rome, June 20 - Pope Francis on Tuesday paid homage to two priests who championed the poor. First he arrived by helicopter in the province of Mantua town Bozzolo to pray at the tomb of Don Primo Mazzolari. Mazzolari was a partisan during World War II who, as a priest, worked to help the poor. The Argentine pontiff was greeted by Cremona Bishop Antonio Napolioni and Mayor Giuseppe Torchio and a chorus of bell-ringing form the local churches. Pope Francis spoke at length in Bozzolo, asking those in attendance to have patience because he was told to make his talk shorter but was unable to do so as he had so many things to say. During the visit, Bishop Napolioni announced the process to beatify Mazzolari will start on September 18. The pope then flew to Barbiana, near Florence, to pray at the tomb of Don Lorenzo Milani, who founded a school for the poor and workers. Both Mazzolari and Milani came under fire from the Church hierarchy for positions that at the time were considered rebellious. "The gesture I carried out today aims to be a response to the request... for his (Milani's) pastoral activities to be recognised and understood in their faithfulness to the gospel," the pope said. "Today I did this as bishop of Rome... which does not cancel out the bitterness... but says that the Church recognises that path as an exemplary way to serve the gospel". Pope Francis spoke less in Barbiana than he had in Bozzolo, but emphasised Milani's dedication to education and how he gave "voice and dignity" to the poor. The pontiff said he takes Don Lorenzo Milani as a role model. "Pray for me," Francis said in a space outside the priest's home at Barbiana. "Don't forget that I take the example of this good priest too. And so should you priests, including the elderly ones, everyone forward, with courage". While the process to beatify Mazzolari will move forward, the canonisation process for Don Milani was rejected by Cardinal Giuseppe Betori. The pope's trip was brief, taking off from the Vatican heliport at 7:30 and returning around 13:15.
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