A visit from Pope Francis...it's the best gift!
Pope Francis celebrated Holy Thursday with patients from a network of centers for the elderly and disabled people. FABIO DE SANTIS Don Gnocchi Foundation "This is a place of suffering. A place where human frailty is present.â? Angelica is 86 years old. She is one of the 12 people Pope Francis washed the feet of, and she's also the oldest. She's recovering from a fall that left her with a broken hip and fractured ribs. ANGELICA "They care for us day and night, constantly. They work hard because, for the most part, we are all elderly. But they always come with affection and love, with a smile. I call it the city of smiles.â? Angelica knows first hand about work and suffering. Her husband died when she was 39, and since then she had to work to sustain her three children. She worked as a maid and nanny. Then, after finishing some courses, she worked as a secretary. The Pope's visit, she said, was the best gift she could have asked for. ANGELICA "But as they say here, I'm on the last leg of the journey. He is great, a great, great person. And today I want to sing him a song. But I don't know if they will let me.â? -What song? -I'll sing it now. The medical center houses many different patients. Some, like Angelica, will recover soon, but others have life-long disabilities. These are the people Pope Francis chose for this Holy Thursday ritual. FABIO DE SANTIS Don Gnocchi Foundation "We have patients that come for 20 to 30 days. We also have patients whose fate is unfortunately sealed. The Pope has always been present and attentive to people who suffer, maybe for this reason, he chose our foundation and this center in particular.â? Among the 12 patients, there are three people from outside Italy, and one Muslim. The youngest is 16-year-old Osvaldinho. He became paraplegic after jumping into the ocean during low tide. The Santa Maria alla Provvidenza Medical Center is located in a quiet, isolated area, 9 miles west of the Vatican. The center is inside the larger Don Gnocchi Foundation compound, which has housed people with disabilities for more than 60 years. JRB/RCA AA FA -PR Up:YJA