On Friday afternoon Pope Francis made a surprise visit to a community in Italy which houses and cares for persons who have severe mental disabilities, where he visited both the care-givers and the beneficiaries.

The visit was part of his “Mercy Friday” initiative, in which he carries out one act of mercy a month on a Friday throughout the Jubilee of Mercy.

The Pope's visit to Il Chicco was announced in a May 13 communique from Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Holy See press officer.

Pope Francis sat at table and ate with the volunteers and the disabled, and listened to their testimonies.

“He also visited the most severely disabled, showing signs of deep affection and tenderness; in particular to Armando and Fabio, who were the first to be accepted,” Fr. Lombardi related.

Il Chicco is located in Ciampino, a town just outside of Rome. It was founded in 1981 by L'Arche, a federation dedicated to making known the gifts of persons with intellectual disabilities. It houses 18 persons with disabilities.

L'Arche was founded in 1964 by Jean Vanier, when he welcomed two disabled men to leave the institutions where they were living and come live with him instead. His desire attracted others, and L'Arche now has more than 100 communities in 29 countries around the world.

The movement focuses on recognizing the gifts of the disabled, and so each house includes a workshop where they are able to work.

Pope Francis visited the workship at Il Chicco, and afterwards went to the chapel to pray with the community. He spent an hour and a half with the community, and before he left he gifted them with a monetary contribution and a basket of seasonal fruits, including cherries and peaches.

The Pope “has expressed with this visit one of the most salient points expressing his pontificate: attention to the simplest and weakest,” Fr. Lombardi wrote. “Bringing them tenderness and affection, he wished to give a concrete sign of how to live the Year of Mercy.”

Today's visit to Il Chicco is the fifth 'sign of mercy' done by Pope Francis to mark the months of the Jubilee of Mercy: in January he visited a nursing home, in February a community for addicts; in March, a refugee center, and in April, refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos.

The Jubilee of Mercy is an Extraordinary Holy Year that began Dec. 8, 2015, and will close Nov. 20, with the feast of Christ the King.