(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis made a visit to the Bambin Gesù pediatric hospital on Saturday afternoon, touring the facility and visiting with the young patients of the care centre and with their families, as well as with medical professionals, other staff and administrators. He was welcomed in the courtyard of the facility by as many as four thousand well-wishers. During the course of the visit, Pope Francis received the Christmas wishes of the young patients, promising prayers for their healing and offering words of encouragement. "Dear children," said Pope Francis, "I thank you for [sharing] your dreams and your prayers [with me]," which the youngsters had written on paper and collected in a basket that they then gave him. "Thank you very much," he said, adding, "we present them together to Jesus: He knows them better than anyone - He knows what is in our heart of hearts. Especially with you children, Jesus has a special bond: He is always close to you." 
Founded in 1869, the Bambin Gesù hospital has developed a high level of expertise in treating children coming not only from Rome or Italy, but also from neighbouring European countries. Pope Francis’ visit continues a tradition that began in 1958, when Bl. John XXIII visited the hospital for the first time: Paul VI visited the hospital in January 1968; Bl. John Paul II continued the tradition in January of 1979; Benedict XVI visited the hospital in September of 2005.

A highlight of the Holy Father's visit this 21 December, 2013, was the scheduled presentation of the hospital's "Francis House" initiative. Named after Pope Francis, the Francis House is to be a place of welcome, safety and integral care for mothers and children on the margins of society with dangerous family situations. The Francis House project aims at building a place and creating an environment in which both mothers and children will receive acceptance, psychological and social support and help with education, with a view to making guest-families able to stand on their own feet.

SHARED from  Vatican Radio