Pope makes 'mercy Friday' visit to elderly, infirm

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) — As part of his personal observance of the Year
of Mercy, Pope Francis made an unannounced, “private” visit to a
retirement home and to a group home for people in a persistent vegetative
state, the Vatican said.

The visits to the 33 residents of the Bruno Buozzi
Retirement Home and the six residents of Casa Iride Jan. 15 were announced with
the hashtag #MercyFriday by the pontifical commission organizing the Year of

The Vatican previously announced that one Friday each month
during the Holy Year, Pope Francis would personally and privately perform a work
of mercy. The series ended up beginning very publicly Dec. 18 when he visited
and celebrated Mass at a shelter run by the Rome diocesan Caritas.

For the January visit, journalists were not invited or even
informed. Even the residents of the two facilities were not told in advance,
said a statement issued by the Vatican press office once the pope had returned
to the Vatican.

Pope Francis was accompanied by Archbishop Rino Fisichella,
who is in charge of the jubilee organizing committee; the archbishop’s office
tweeted several photos of the pope’s visit.

The Vatican described the atmosphere at the retirement home as
one of “great surprise and joy” as the pope greeted each resident and
stopped to speak to them, one by one.

Both the retirement home and the Casa Iride are located in
one of the poorer neighborhoods on the outskirts of Rome. The Vatican said Casa
Iride is not a hospital or clinic, but is a family-style structure where
residents can be cared for by their own family members with the support of the

In choosing the two homes, the Vatican statement said,
“Pope Francis wanted to highlight — in opposition to the ‘throwaway
culture’ — the great importance and preciousness of the elderly and
grandparents as well as the value and dignity of life in every situation.”

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @cindy_wooden.

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