ROME — Pope Francis returned to a practice he developed during the Year of Mercy: Making a Friday-afternoon visit to people in need of or deserving special care.
For the visit on March 31, he chose the Sant’ Alessio-Margherita di Savoia Regional Center for the Blind in Rome. The center is home to 37 adults and senior citizens who are blind or severely visually impaired, but the structure also offers specialized classes for 50 children with the same challenges.
“With this visit, the pope wants to continue the so-called Mercy Friday visits carried out during the Jubilee of Mercy,” the Vatican said in a statement. The visits were designed to reflect the spiritual and corporal works of mercy with “those who live in situations of physical and social exclusion.”
Pope Francis met with many of the guests staying at the facility. Some of them have been blind since birth while others have lost their sight due to a disease. A few guests have multiple disabilities.
The president and director general of the center, as well as medical staff and volunteers had a chance to meet the pope personally. Pope Francis showed his gratitude by leaving a special gift: A signed parchment for the chapel at the center in order to commemorate his visit.
The center was founded in 1868 by lay Catholics with the support of Pope Pius IX, and specialized in giving a general education to children who were blind, teaching them to read Braille. It also teamed up with Rome’s Santa Cecilia Conservatory, offering many of the young students a musical education.
Pope Francis started performing acts of mercy in January 2016 to inaugurate the Year of Mercy Jubilee.
When the jubilee drew to a close in December, Francis promised in an interview to continue to make “different gestures” of mercy once a month on a Friday.
Crux Staff contributed to this report