(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday morning visited the Pediatric Dispensary of Santa Marta in the Vatican. 

Then, at the Paul VI Hall, he met the children cared for at the Dispensary, along with their families and the volunteers who, every day, serve in the charitable institution, which is entrusted to the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul. 

The children surprised the Holy Father with a small party ahead of his 77th  birthday (December 17), giving him a cake and a sweater. “I thank you for this visit,” the Pope said in a brief address. “Thank you for the love you have, the joy of these children, the gifts, the cake ... It was beautiful! Later I’ll tell you it was good or not. Thank you so much! May the Lord bless you.” Then he affectionately greeted the children one by one.

The Pope was greeted Sr. Antonietta Collacchi, the head of the Dispensary, and a mother from Peru. Sister Antoinette said “the Dispensary of Santa Marta has a long history, with over 90 years of solidarity spent in serving those people who too often seem invisible to the eyes of the world.” Since its founding in 1922, under Pope Pius XI, the Dispensary has assisted thousands of children, along with their families. Sr. Collacchi spoke about the medical care and psychological support provided by the Dispensary, noting that the institution also ensures basic necessities such as milk, diapers, wheelchairs, food, clothing, and toys. The children are given periodic check-ups and specialized consultations, which are also provided for their mothers. “This symphony of love,” she said, “is made possible thanks to the voluntary work of doctors - paediatricians, obstetricians , sonographers , dermatologists , dentists - and the many workers who offer their time, passion and tenderness. Divine Providence ensures that we do not lack His support, by multiplying charity every day, in our hands. Our days are marked by the joy of being a Christian, the brightness of a smile and the warmth of gratitude, and this allows us to be able to repeat - with the strength of the experience - some of his words: ‘true power is service;’ for a Christian ‘to make progress’ means ‘to humble oneself,’ as the Son of God did. In this perspective, we work to globalize solidarity and love, rather than indifference and selfishness. In this time of Advent, pregnant with hope for the coming of the Messiah, once more we turn our gaze to a family in need, abandoned by men to their fate, but we see above all the trust in the will of the Heavenly Father and cultivate an awareness that in His design is imprinted the touch of an artist completing a masterpiece.”

The Pope was also greeted by Elizabeth, from Peru, the mother of one of the children cared for by at the Dispensary. “We are happy that you are here this morning with all of us from the Dispensary of Santa Marta,” she said. “Your presence, Holy Father, is a surprise for us and always gives us moments of tenderness and joy. What can we say about your smile? It’s so amazing, it goes to the heart of everyone, giving us so much peace. We know how much you love the children, especially to those who need it most. At the Dispensary we feel especially privileged because we know that we are in your heart and on your mind. And we are happy because, every day, you help us to meet Jesus. Dear Pope Francis,” she concluded, “these our children receive today the most beautiful Christmas gift they could imagine: your smile, your caress, your embrace.”

Shared from Vatican Radio