The Holy Father on Monday, made a surprise visit to the Italian town of Greccio, where St. Francis recreated the First Nativity Scene in December 1223,making use of local animals and a sculptured image of the child Jesus in a manger to recreate the events surrounding the birth of Jesus.
Pope Francis traveled in his Ford Focus to the old hill town of Greccio,province of Rieti, located to the north of Rome, for what the Vatican called a time of “personal prayer”.
Bishop of Rieti, Domenico Pompili,welcomed Pope Francis to the town.He was the only person who knew ahead of time about the Pope’s visit.
“I thank the Lord for this joy and I ask him to bless the Church, the bishop of Rieti, the friars, the faithful and to help everyone discover the star and seek the Child,” Pope Francis wrote in his own hand, in the shrine’s book of signatures, according to Vatican Insider.
The Holy Father had earlier met with the youth gathered for a diocesan youth event in Greccio.
The Pope met with the members of the Franciscan order. There, he prayed before a 15th century fresco representing the nativity scene of Greccio on one side, and the nativity of Greccio on the other.
Pope St. John Paul II had last visited the hilly town on January 2, 1983, to mark the octave centenary of the birth of St. Francis of Assisi.