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Born with a disability, today he’s a priest and “influencer”

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Facebook | Don Francesco Cristofaro

Gelsomino Del Guercio - published on 02/08/22

"My legs still wobble sometimes but my heart is steady and my will is strong."

Fr. Francesco Cristofaro was “a child who could neither toddle nor play like the others. A little boy who took refuge in prayer to ask for a miracle. It’s the story of a miracle that came true. That child, now grown up, has become a priest” (TV2000.it).

He was born in Catanzaro (southern Italy) on November 10, 1979, and today he’s the parish priest of Santa Maria Assunta parish in the town of Simeri Crichi, Fr. Francesco is also a media personality.

Fr. Francesco told TV2000 about his childhood:

I was born with spastic paresis of the legs, an unknown term for two simple hearts like those of my parents—my mother, a housewife, and my father, a carpenter, with a job that was often precarious at the time. They understood right away, however, that it was going to be an ordeal. In fact, they began to take many trips of hope from the south to the north for medical examinations, but they also visited many sellers of false hope.

Struggling for acceptance

For young Francesco, the illness was a deep suffering, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

“I struggled for so many years to accept myself and be accepted. I had to dodge the blows of people’s pity, and kids my age who easily told me: ‘you can’t come and play with us because then you’d fall and hurt yourself.’”

Requests to Our Lady

He confesses that he prayed often to Mary, asking for a miraculous healing:

[The healing] never came, and so I’d say to her: “Why don’t you listen to me? Am I a bad child?” My desire to be healed was so strong that during the night I dreamt of walking like all the other children, of playing, of riding a bicycle. Our Lady with a Mother’s tenderness took me by the hand and helped me know Jesus. He granted me the miracle. Not the physical healing, but the healing of my heart and thoughts. I had convinced myself that I was of no use to anyone.

God’s plan was different

Instead of physical healing, God had a different plan for Francesco:

Then I understood that I too was an instrument. Gradually I grew up, I became active at the parish, became involved in ministry and a catechist. My heart was serene. I wanted to belong entirely to Jesus and he blessed this desire. Today, I’m a priest. My legs still wobble sometimes but my heart is steady and my will is strong. I want to be a priest every day until the end.”

“Influencer” and parish priest

Today, in addition to being the pastor of a rural parish, Fr. Cristofaro has a master’s degree in spiritual theology from the Teresianum Pontifical Faculty of Theology in Rome. He hosts shows on Catholic radio and television in Italy, and writes in a weekly magazine about miracles.

He’s also very active on social networks. On Facebook he has almost 200,000 followers; on his YouTube channel each video has thousands of views. He’s also very popular on Twitter and Instagram. He’s one of the most popular priests on social media today. He also has his own official website where he tells his story.

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