(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday paid a surprise visit to the San Carlo community at the Italian Centre for Solidarity (CeIS) near Castelgandalfo in the Alban hills. Founded by Father Mario Picchi, the San Carlo community works to prevent and combat social exclusion, focusing especially on those suffering from drug addiction.
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The unscheduled visit came as part of the Pope’s plan to make a concrete gesture linked to the works of mercy on one Friday of every month throughout this Jubilee year.
The President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New Evangelization, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, who accompanied the Holy Father, said the 55 young people and the volunteers living at the community centre were astonished to see him arrive unannounced and without a security escort.
The Archbishop said Pope Francis spent time talking to each one of them and listening to their stories of battling drug dependency. Founded in the late 1960s, the centre also welcomed Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II, who met with its young residents during an official visit in September 1983.
“With this sign,” the Archbishop said, Pope Francis “wanted to emphasize the need for continued confidence in the power of Mercy, which continues to support our pilgrimage and which, even in the coldest hours, makes us feel the warmth of God’s presence.”