VATICAN CITY — Although the Jubilee Year of Mercy has officially ended, Pope Francis today made a surprise “Mercy Friday” visit to a center for the blind and visually impaired in Rome — showing that he doesn’t think works of mercy are just for special occasions or years.
Continuing his tradition of performing a spiritual or corporal work of mercy on one Friday a month during the Church’s Jubilee of Mercy in 2016, the Pope went in the afternoon of March 31 to the St. Alessio-Margherita di Savoia Regional Center for the blind in Rome.
According to a March 31 communiqué from the Vatican, the Pope wished to make this visit as a “follow-up” to the private visits of the jubilee.
This particular act of mercy, the statement said, was to guests of the center, which organizes activities “aimed at social inclusion of the blind and visually impaired.”
During his visit, the Pope met with the different guests, some of whom have been blind from birth and others who have no vision or impaired vision due to a serious disease. Some of the guests have multiple disabilities.
About 50 children attend the center to receive practical training in life skills and in navigating daily activities, and 37 elderly people are permanent residents of the facility.
Francis also greeted the president and director general of the center, the medical staff and volunteers.
Before leaving, he left a gift and signed a parchment for the center’s chapel, in memory of his visit. He returned to the Vatican around 6pm.
Pope Francis kicked off his monthly works of mercy in January 2016 by visiting a retirement home for the elderly, sick and those in a vegetative state, and a month later, he traveled to a center for those recovering from drug addiction in Castel Gandolfo.
Other visits throughout the year included those to refugees, children, formerly sex-trafficked women, former priests, infants and the terminally ill.
In December 2016, Pope Francis said in an interview with the official website for the Jubilee of Mercy that he would be making “different gestures” of mercy once a month on Fridays during the holy year.