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L'Osservatore Romano

Pope Makes Surprise Visit to Program for Women Saved From Prostitution

For ‘Friday of Mercy,’ Hears Testimonies From 20 Women of John XXIII Community

The Holy See press office reported this afternoon that Pope Francis chose today for another of his “Friday of Mercy” initiatives.

This August’s Friday of Mercy saw Pope Francis go to a district on the outskirts of the city of Rome, on via di Pietralata, where in a complex of condominiums he met some young women taking part in the recovery project of the John XXIII Community founded by Don Benzi.

It was a real surprise for the 20 women who, on opening the door of their private apartment, expected anything except to see Pope Francis. The Pope stayed with them for over an hour with great affability, listening to the sad experiences of these young women, and he encouraged them to look ahead with much confidence.

Related: Pope’s 2014 address to members of John XXIII Community

Present at the meeting were the national director of the John XXIII Community, Paolo Ramonda, its spiritual assistant, Don Aldo Bonaiuto and some of the Community’s street workers. The meeting reflected the Holy Father’s special care for this representative group of young women, of an average age of 30, from Rumania, Nigeria, Ukraine, Albania and Italy.

At a time of vacation, when the sense of recreation is strongest, often heedless of rules, Pope Francis’ sign was that of wishing to restore full dignity to these young women, who suffered much violence, abuse and intimidation from the prostitution racket.

With this sign, the Pontiff wished to confirm that Mercy is not an abstract word but a concrete action, which calls for commitment also in the social realm, to restore dignity to individuals subjected to new forms of slavery.

Other visits made by Pope Francis in the course of the Jubilee for a “Friday of Mercy” have included: in January he visited a care home for the elderly and the sick; in February a community for drug addicts at Castel Gandolfo; in March (Holy Thursday) the Center of Reception for Refugees (CARA) of Castelnuovo di Porto; in April he visited refugees and migrants in Lesbos Island; and in May the “Chicco” community for individuals with serious mental disabilities at Ciampino; in June, he visited elderly and suffering priests.

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