ROME — On Friday, Pope Francis visited with young children at the “SOS Village” in Rome, a community made up of homes for children who are in positions of family or social hardship, as recommended by social services.
“The Village,” as it is called, is made up of five houses, each holding up to six boys and six girls, 12 years of age and under. They live in the house with an “SOS mother.” The Village aims to support the children and nurture their growth in the same way a family would.
The Oct. 14 visit is the latest in the Pope’s “Mercy Friday” initiatives to spend time with various groups each month during the Jubilee of Mercy.
In previous trips, he has made surprise stops at places including an elderly home, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, and a facility for retired priests, in addition to a NICU and home for those with disabilities.
During this month’s visit, the Pope was shown around the Village by the boys and girls, accompanied by staff. They showed off the greenspace of the Village, which includes a football field and a playground.
Pope Francis was also shown the children’s rooms and their toys, and he listened to their stories and shared a snack with them.
The children living at the Village are accompanied to school, go to church and play sports. The professionals, residents, non-residents and volunteers who work at the Village each work with the same child for several years to allow for the creation of stable human relationships and development.
The first SOS Children’s Village was founded in Austria in 1949 as a way to educate children orphaned by the war in a warm family environment, in contrast to the orphanage model prevalent at the time.
After his stop at the SOS Village and before returning to the Vatican, Pope Francis went to visit Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, the archpriest emeritus of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, who has been admitted to the Villa Betania nursing home.