VATICAN CITY - In the second of his "Mercy Friday" gestures,
Pope Francis spent two hours with a group of young adults at
a Catholic-run residential drug rehabilitation center.
To the complete surprise of the 55 residents, Pope Francis
showed up in his compact Ford Escort at the San Carlo
Community Feb. 26 with just a driver. Archbishop Rino
Fisichella, organizer of the Vatican's Year of Mercy events,
arrived separately at the community outside of Rome near
"We were speechless when we saw the car with the pope enter
our community where every day our young people fight their
battle to return to life," said Roberto Mineo, president of
the Italian Solidarity Center, which runs the facility. "The
pope, like a caring father, spent a long time which each
person, listening to their stories and embracing them one by
one. Some of the young people showed him photos of their
families, their children, and the pope had a word of hope and
a blessing for each of them."
Using tiny photos of past and present community members, the
residents had made a mosaic of Our Lady of Lujan, patroness
of Argentina, and asked Pope Francis to sign it, which he did
"with affection and friendship."
Sitting in a large circle, Pope Francis asked the residents
about their activities and learned that one of their
therapeutic projects is learning how to cook. "What is the
best thing you make?" the pope asked. Their response was not
reported by the few people present, but at break time, they
shared with Pope Francis some of their cheese pizza, made
In a press release, Archbishop Fisichella said Pope Francis
chose the drug rehab center as a follow-up to his visit to
Mexico where he repeatedly denounced drug traffickers and
urged Catholic pastors and parishioners to be close to all
those who have fallen prey to drug addiction.
In one of his earliest Year of Mercy events, in December,
Pope Francis opened a "door of charity" at the main soup
kitchen of the Rome diocesan Caritas. One Friday a month for
the rest of the jubilee year, Pope Francis was to demonstrate
personally the works of mercy. In January, he visited a home
for the aged and a nearby facility caring for people in
persistent vegetative states. Reporters are not invited to
accompany the pope and news of the events is not released
until the pope already has arrived.
Also related to the Year of Mercy, an Italian group of
physicians and nurses - Solidarity Medicine - opened a mobile
health clinic for the poor and homeless under the colonnade
at St. Peter's Square Feb. 29. Working with the papal
almoner's office, which installed showers there and
coordinates the weekly visit of barbers, the doctors and
nurses will offer checkups and referrals for tests.