Pope Francis has continued to surprise the world. With his knack for off the cuff remarks, his willingness to take risks, and of course a Pope who declines the comforts that have been considered commonplace for the Vicar of Christ, he just threw another curve-ball. Pope Francis made an unscheduled visit at a rehab center for those who find it difficult to walk away from their addiction to drugs or alcohol to offer his prayerful support.
He dropped by the Fr. Mario Picchi Italian Center for Solidarity near Castelgandalfo in the Alban hills on Friday afternoon and thrilled the 60 guests receiving treatment. Speaking to them he offered words of hope.
The unscheduled visit came as part of the Pope’s monthly works of mercy which he carries out one Friday every month throughout this Jubilee year.
The Non-Profit Organization founded by Father Mario Picchi, works to prevent and combat social exclusion, focusing especially on those suffering from drug addiction.
True to his humble lifestyle, Francis arrived with no security, he was just accompanied by President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, Archbishop Rino Fisichella.
The Archbishop said that the patients and volunteers living at the community center were astounded to see him arrive unexpectedly and without a security escort.
In a Feb. 26 communique, the center’s president, Roberto Mineo, said that everyone was “without words” when they saw the Pope pull up in front of their door.
“He met at length with each one of them like a loving father listening to their stories and embracing them one by one,” Mineo said, noting how some of the guests showed the Pope photos of their families and children.
Mineo explained that the Pope’s visit was unexpected because the center had written him some weeks back telling him about their work not only with drug addicted youth, but also with refugees and women who are victims of violence.
“But we never imagined that the Pope, after reading our letter, would have honored us with his presence,” Mineo said.
In the communique from the Vatican, Archbishop Fisichella said that “the deep emotion” of the visit touched everyone, and that the Pope “wanted to stay together with the youth, he listened to their stories and made each one of them feel his closeness.”
The Pope, he said, encouraged them “not to be devoured by the ‘metastasis’ of drugs and, embracing them, wanted to make understood how the path started in the community is a real chance” to start again with “a life worth living.”