Pope Francis makes surprise visit to sick children

  • Written by Elise Harris, CNA/EWTN News
  • Published in International
Pope Francis visits the Bambino Gesù di Palidoro hospital outside Rome, January 5, 2018. Photo: Vatican Media Pope Francis visits the Bambino Gesù di Palidoro hospital outside Rome, January 5, 2018. Photo: Vatican Media

ROME – In yet another “Mercy Friday” outing, Pope Francis traveled to the outskirts of Rome January 5 to visit sick children receiving care at a campus of the Vatican’s Bambino Gesù hospital, offering comfort to patients and their parents.

According to a Vatican communique, the pope made the visit around 3 p.m., heading to the Palidoro campus of Bambino Gesu children’s hospital, which sits about 20 miles west of Rome.

Francis made his way through different wings of the hospital, greeting the children who are receiving care and their parents, who are helping their children through “these tiresome and painful trials,” he said.

Bambino Gesù, colloquially known as the “Pope’s hospital,” is among most important pediatric hospitals in the world. Founded in 1869 by the Duchess Arabella Salviati, the hospital was donated to Pope Pius XI in 1924, with the aim of giving it a more stable future.

The Palidoro campus was established in 1978 under Pope Paul VI, who entrusted Bambino Gesù with the activities of the “Pontificia Opera di Assistenza” clinic in Palidoro, which specialized in care for polio patients and until that year had been separate from the hospital.

The campus is also currently home to a special exhibit titled “Caro Papa, ti regalo un disegno,” meaning, “Dear Pope, I’ll give you a drawing.”

Promoted by both Bambino Gesù and the Jesuit newspaper La Civiltà Cattolica, the exhibit consists of a series of drawings given to the pope by children throughout the world, either through the mail or in person during audiences or trips abroad.

The drawings were given to La Civiltà Cattolica, which partnered with Bambino Gesù to launch a campaign using the images as a means of supporting and welcoming the children who come to hospital from all over the world.

Promoted largely through social media outlets such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, the campaign promises each person who makes a donation, no matter how much, a digital copy of the drawings given to Pope Francis by the children.

Pope Francis’ visit to the hospital is a continuation of his “Mercy Friday” custom which he began during the Jubilee of Mercy, in 2016.

Originally planned once per month for the duration of the jubilee, the pope has continued these visits as a means of practicing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. He has met with refugees, children, women freed from sex trafficking, and the terminally ill, among others.