Pope Francis Visits Neonatal Unit and Hospice to Highlight Pro-Life Values at Both Ends of Life

International   |   Emily Derois   |   Sep 19, 2016   |   9:35AM   |   The Vatican

Pope Francis made a surprise visit to a neonatal hospital unit on Friday to remind the world about the sanctity of life. During his visit, the pope held and prayed for ill babies at the San Giovanni Hospital in Rome, Catholic News Agency reported.

Photographs of the pope wearing a surgical robe and green mask depicted the touching moments when he met each young child. One image showed him holding a baby, and another showed a tiny infant clasping the pope’s finger.

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The Vatican said, “The Holy Father stopped at each incubator and greeted the parents who were there, giving them comfort and courage.”

The visit was part of Pope Francis’ “Mercy Friday” initiatives. He stopped to spend time with the 12 infants in the hospital’s neonatal unity, six of whom are in serious condition, according to CNA. After visiting the infants and their parents, the pope went to the Villa Speranza Hospice and met with their 30 patients. The Vatican said that the patients and their relatives were overjoyed to meet him.

In his prior “Mercy Friday” initiatives, Pope Francis visited a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, a home for retired priests and a nursing home, according to the report.

By visiting the neonatal unit, Pope Francis wanted to “send a strong signal about the importance of life from its first moment until its natural end,” according to the Vatican.

Pope Francis frequently speaks out against abortion and encourages Catholics to support pregnant and parenting moms and their babies.

“All of us are called to respect life and care for it,” he said during a trip to Poland in July. “On the other hand, it is the responsibility of the State, the Church and society to accompany and concretely help all those who find themselves in serious difficulty, so that a child will never be seen as a burden but as a gift, and those who are most vulnerable and poor will not be abandoned.”

Pope Francis’ message is one of love and protection for those most vulnerable. As he continues his “Mercy Friday” visits, he is reminding nations of the necessity of caring for the vulnerable and helpless.