ROME — Pope Francis continued to illustrate the theme of his Holy Year of Mercy on Friday, making a surprise visit to a retirement home in suburban Rome and then stopping at a home for patients with grave neurological conditions.
Similar gestures will be a monthly event throughout the holy year, in what the Vatican has labeled “Fridays of Mercy.”
Although unannounced, Francis’ visit to the Bruno Buozzi hospice and the Casa Iride home were not completely unexpected: when the calendar for the jubilee mercy year was announced, the Vatican said that every month the pontiff would deliver a gesture that would help shine a light on what, according to Catholic tradition, are the 14 “works of mercy.”
The Vatican announced the papal visits through the jubilee’s website and social media accounts.
— Jubilee.va (@Jubilee_va) January 15, 2016
According to the jubilee’s website, the unscheduled visit to the retirement home was meant to stress the importance of Francis’ words warning about a “throwaway culture,” while at the same time underlining the value elderly people and grandparents have in the Church and society.
After his visit to the hospice, Francis stopped at a nearby care house for patients in a vegetative state or minimally conscious state, Casa Iride. It’s the only non-hospital center in Europe that host six people in a vegetative state, along with relatives caring for them.
According to Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, Francis made the short trip from the Vatican in his blue Ford Focus, accompanied only by a priest, the driver, and a security guard.
The works of mercy Francis is trying to promote are intended to foster both penance and charity, and are traditionally divided into “corporal” and “spiritual.”
Those corporal works are:
- Feeding the hungry
- Visiting the sick
- Clothing the naked
- Giving drink to the thirsty
- Sheltering the homeless
- Visiting prisoners
- Burying the dead
The spiritual works of mercy are:
- Instructing the ignorant
- Counseling the doubtful
- Admonishing the sinner
- Comforting the afflicted
- Forgiving offenses
- Bearing wrongs patiently
- Praying for the living and the dead
“This symbol, so deeply human of Pope Francis,” says the short announcement posted on the jubilee’s website, “is another demonstration of the great value of human life and of the dignity with which it must be respected.”
Francis has warned against a “throwaway culture” countless times throughout his pontificate, including on Jan. 11 when he addressed ambassadors from the 180 countries accredited to the Vatican.
“How can we not see in all this the effects of that ‘culture of waste’ which endangers the human person, sacrificing men and women before the idols of profit and consumption?” Francis asked the diplomats.
“Persons are no longer seen as a paramount value to be cared for and respected, especially when poor or disabled, or ‘not yet useful’, like the unborn, or ‘no longer needed,’ like the elderly,” he said.
The Jubilee of Mercy began Dec. 8 and will run until the Solemnity of Christ the King on Nov. 20.