Pope Francis paid a surprise visit to SOS Children’s Village Rome on 14 October. He spent the afternoon with the children and families, getting to know their stories.
"It’s been a day full of great emotion,” said Pier Carlo Visconti, chairman of the SOS Children's Village in Rome. “We received a phone call in the early afternoon from Monsignor Fisichella who had recently visited our SOS Children's Village. Half an hour later, Pope Francis was here."
"He wanted to know what we do for the children, and for children and families in need. He wanted to know how we operate. He then asked us to tell him some of the [life] stories of the children he was meeting.”
The Pope's visit was part of his 'Fridays of Mercy', in which he often makes surprise visits to people who have endured great challenges. The Pope's 'Fridays of Mercy' are part of the Jubilee Year of Mercy in the Catholic Church.
The Pope spent a lot of time with the children in their homes. “He brought many sweets and sat down with the children to eat them. He laughed and played with them. He then kissed and embraced them, one by one. I'm speechless, really," said Mr Visconti.
And how did the kids feel about the Pope’s visit?
“They were very happy and they wanted to hug him and kiss him. One of them asked: 'But is he the real Pope?’", Mr Visconti said.
“I am honoured and moved by the visit of Pope Francis,” said Maria Grazia Rodriguez Y Baena, President of SOS Children's Villages Italy. “He gave an immense gift to our children. This will be an indelible memory in their lives.”
SOS Children's Villages in a non-denominational organisation which has been working in Italy since 1963. SOS Children's Village Rome was founded in 1987.
Read more about SOS Children's Villages' work in Italy
SOS Children's Villages Italy website