Pope makes surprise visit to mobile clinic in St. Peter’s Square

VATICAN CITY—Pope Francis made a surprise visit to a mobile health care facility set up in St. Peter’s Square to serve the city’s homeless and poor.

Entering the square from under Bernini’s colonnade Nov. 16, the pope walked to the makeshift medical center accompanied by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

Tourists and pilgrims in the square were caught off-guard by the pope’s arrival, immediately snapping pictures and reaching out to shake the pope’s hand.

Arriving at the mobile clinic, the pope was welcomed with applause and cheers from the doctors, medical staff and patients. The pope remained 15 minutes and was given a tour of the medical center before walking back to his residence inside the Vatican.

The medical facility, which was to be open Nov. 12-18, was part of an initiative organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization in conjunction with Pope Francis’ celebration Nov. 18 of the World Day of the Poor.

A similar clinic was set up last year, but this year it offered extended morning and evening hours. Anyone in need could find general and specialist care, including cardiology, dermatology, gynecology and ophthalmology.

Doctors volunteering from Rome hospitals or other health clinics and nurses from the Italian Red Cross took shifts running laboratory tests and seeing patients from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day.

By Junno Arocho Esteves/Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Vatican Media: Pope Francis greets a woman religious as he makes a surprise visit to a free health clinic for the needy in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Nov. 16.