Pope Francis paid a surprise visit to a center for Alzhiemer’s patients Friday afternoon.
With this visit to the Emmanuel Village on the outskirts of Rome, the pope desired to turn attention to the exclusion and loneliness Alzhiemer’s disease can bring to patients and family members, who are often forgotten by society, according to a Vatican statement April 12.
“The continual increase in life expectancy also calls for greater awareness and respect for the needs and dignity of those who live this disease on themselves and those who are close to the patient,” the statement continued.
The afternoon excursion was the latest of Pope Francis’ Mercy Friday visits. The pastoral initiative was originally linked to the Church’s Jubilee of Mercy in 2016, but the pope has chosen to continue the practice as an example of the corporal works of mercy.
Mercy Friday visits have included encounters with the terminally ill, refugees, children, and women free from sex trafficking, among others.
When Pope Francis arrived at the Emmanuel Village, he was greeted with astonishment by the staff and residents. He then toured the center and spoke with patients as they engaged in their recreational activities.
The Alzhiemer’s center is known for its innovation in creating an environment for its patients that allows them to live as close to normality as possible. Each of the patient residences in the “village” is designed to closely resemble the individual’s home.
Earlier this month, Pope Francis met with a group of Belgian Alzhiemer’s patients, who perform together in a choir.
“I think your song is made more precious by your vulnerability,” Pope Francis told the fifteen-member choir who were in Rome for a five-day pilgrimage.
The pope spoke about the importance of honoring the elderly and treating them with tenderness.
“Perhaps some of them have lost their memory, but they are the symbol of the memory of a people; they are the roots of our homeland, of our humanity. They are the roots, and the young must go there to take the sap from the roots, to carry civilization onwards,” Pope Francis said.