Pope highlights sanctity of life in Year of Mercy visits

IMAGE: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis donned a green hospital
gown over his white cassock and entered the neonatal unit of a Rome hospital,
peering in the incubators, making the sign of the cross and encouraging worried

The trip to the babies’ ward of Rome’s San Giovanni Hospital
and then to a hospice Sept. 16 were part of a series of Mercy Friday activities Pope Francis has been doing once a month
during the Year of Mercy.

By visiting the ailing newborns and the dying on the same
day, the Vatican said, Pope Francis “wanted to give a strong sign of the
importance of life from its first moment to its natural end.”

“Welcoming life and guaranteeing its dignity at every
moment of its development is a teaching Pope Francis has underlined many
times,” the statement said. With the September visits he wanted to put
“a concrete and tangible seal” on his teaching that living a life of
mercy means giving special attention to those in the most precarious

During the Mercy Friday visits, Pope Francis has spent time
with migrants, the aged, at a recovery community for former drug addicts and at
a shelter for women rescued from human trafficking and prostitution.

Pope Francis stopped by the emergency room of San Giovanni
Hospital before going to the neonatal unit, where 12 little patients were being
treated. Five of the newborns, including a pair of twins, were in intensive care
and were intubated, the Vatican said. The pope also went to the maternity ward
and nursery upstairs, greeting new parents and holding their bundles of joy.

At the neonatal unit, the Vatican said, the pope was “welcomed
by the surprised personnel” and, like everyone else, put on a gown and
followed all the hygiene procedures.

Leaving the hospital, he drove across town to the Villa
Speranza hospice, which hosts 30 terminally ill patients. The hospice is connected
to Rome’s Gemelli Hospital.

Pope Francis went into each of the rooms and greeted each patient,
the Vatican said. “There was great surprise on the part of all — patients
and relatives — who experienced moments of intense emotion with tears and
smiles of joy.”

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