Pope Francis made a surprise visit on December 7 to health facilities for the poor located on the outskirts of Rome, announced the Holy See after the return of the Supreme Pontiff to the Vatican.
Accompanied by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, the pope went first to the CasAmicaCenter on the far outskirts of southern Rome. This facility, explains the Vatican, welcomes people who are in need of intense daily medical treatment and who are facing “very serious” economic difficulties. These patients come mainly from southern Italy and are an example of the phenomenon of “health care migration.”
Like anyone else, the head of the Catholic Church knocked at the door upon his arrival, the statement said.
The reception staff was “stunned” by this unexpected visit. The pope then spent time playing with children, and listening to the story of two young teenagers. Before leaving, the Bishop of Rome gave them a parchment as a souvenir of the meeting and some gifts.
He then went to the therapeutic rehabilitation community Il Ponte e albero (“The Bridge and the Tree,” in English) located in a “very difficult area of the southern outskirts of Rome.” It hosts a dozen young people with mental disorders whose family situations prevented any improvement in their condition. There too, the pope’s arrival was a surprise.
This visit was a response to a letter written by the center’s youth a few months ago, the Holy See said.
Sitting in their midst, Pope Francis “listened to them and encouraged them while answering their questions.” Before leaving for the Vatican, he left them a panettone – a typical Italian cake for the holidays — of 10kg (22 pounds)!, so they could celebrate Christmas.