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Rayan, the boy stuck in a well in Morocco, shows beauty of ‘saints next door’

“This shows us that today, in the midst of so much bad news, there are good things, there are ‘saints next door,’” Pope Francis said

Pope Francis on Sunday shared two recent examples of everyday holiness, times when people gathered together to help a suffering child and a dying young man.

“We are used to seeing and reading in the media so many bad things, bad news, accidents, murders… so many things. But today I would like to mention two beautiful things,” the pope said at his weekly Angelus on February 6.

He pointed to the recent news story of Rayan, a five-year-old boy who was stuck in a well in Morocco for four days. Rescue workers finally reached the boy on the evening of Feb. 5, pulling him out to the cheers of onlookers, before it was confirmed Rayan had died.

Thousands of people had gathered at the scene as emergency personnel worked night and day to save Rayan in a treacherous rescue operation, the BBC reported. The hashtag #SaveRayan was trending on Twitter in some countries.

“In Morocco, how all the people gathered together to save Rayan. It was all the people there, working to save a child,” Pope Francis noted. “They put everything they had into it. Unfortunately, he did not make it.”

The pope said he had read about the story in the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero, where he had seen photos of all the people gathered at the site of the accident. “Thank you to these people for this testimony,” he said.

The second story Pope Francis highlighted on Sunday was that of a young man who had migrated to Italy from his home in Ghana. This story “will not appear in the newspaper,” the pope claimed.

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“John, a Ghanaian boy, 25 years old, a migrant, who suffered everything that many migrants suffer to get here, and in the end he settled in Monferrato, he started to work, to make his future, in a wine company,” Pope Francis recounted.

He said John fell ill with cancer and was dying. When John was told this fact and asked what he would like to do, he said he would like to go back home to see his father.

“As he was dying, he thought of his father,” the pope explained. “And in that village in Monferrato, they immediately took up a collection and, medicated with morphine, they put him and a companion on a plane and sent him home so that he could die in his father’s arms.”

“This shows us that today, in the midst of so much bad news, there are good things, there are ‘saints next door,’” Pope Francis proclaimed.

Earlier in his Angelus message, Pope Francis had spoken about what it feels like to put a lot of effort into something and to have it be in vain — “the disappointment of working so hard and not seeing the desired results.”

He encouraged people in this situation to let Jesus “enter our emptiness and fill it with his presence; to make use of our poverty to proclaim his wealth, of our miseries to proclaim his mercy.”

Pope Francis has often preached about the everyday holiness of those around us.

On All Saints Day in 2019, he said the Church has many examples of how to live with charity, both in the canonized saints in heaven as well as those who live in one’s community and are witnesses of holiness “next door.”

The saints are not unreachable symbols, they “are people who have lived with their feet on the ground. They have experienced the daily toil of existence with its successes and its failures, finding in the Lord the strength to always get up and continue the journey,” he said.

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