ROME – The Vatican announced Friday that Pope Francis has added two day trips in Italy to his schedule for spring 2018, in addition to his already scheduled visit to the towns of Pietrelcina and San Giovanni Rotondo for the 50th anniversary of Padre Pio’s death.
He will visit Alessano and Molfetta April 20 marking the 25th anniversary of the death of Antonio (Tonino) Bello, an Italian bishop whose cause for beatification was opened in 2007.
On May 10, Francis will visit Nomadelfia, a Catholic community of families and lay unmarried people who adopt a lifestyle inspired by the Acts of the Apostles. The same day he will visit Loppiano, near Florence, the location of the international complex of the Focolare Movement.
Francis’s schedule for his visit to Alessano and Molfetta, which both lie in the south of Italy, will begin with a short flight from Rome’s Ciampino Airport to the Galatina military airport. From there, he will travel by helicopter to Alessano.
He will visit Bello’s tomb, afterward meeting with the faithful of the town, where he will give a speech. He will then go by helicopter to the port town of Molfetta, where he will say Mass in the cathedral. He will return to Rome by helicopter around 1:30 pm.
The pope’s program for May 10 begins with a transfer by helicopter from the Vatican to Nomadelfia. His first stop will be to the local cemetery to visit the tomb of Father Zeno Saltini, the founder of the community at Nomadelfia.
Afterward he will meet with community members in the church, followed by an encounter with youth, where he will give an address. Transferring to Loppiano, he will stop for a prayer at the Maria Theotokos Sanctuary, located in the Focolare Movement complex.
In the yard outside of the sanctuary he will meet with the community, including answering questions from community members and giving a speech. He will also greet a community representative. Francis will return to Rome by helicopter around 12:30 pm.
These pastoral visits are in addition to his planned day trip March 17 to Pietrelcina and San Giovanni Rotondo, which are the towns where St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina was born and lived. This visit marks the 50th anniversary of the death of the saint, one of the most beloved in Italy.
The visit will include a meeting with faithful in the square outside the church in Pietrelcina, where Francis will give a speech.
Afterward he will transfer to the town of San Giovanni Rotondo, where he will visit the pediatric oncology department of the local private hospital, which was founded by Padre Pio and is considered one of the most efficient in Italy and in Europe.
From there he will go to the Church of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, celebrating Mass in the square outside. He will also greet the local community of Capuchins and a group of faithful. He will return to Rome around 1:45 pm.