Pope Francis touches the cheek of a woman during a visit to the Sant' Alessio-Margherita di Savoia Regional Center for the Blind March 31 in Rome. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

By Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis returned to a practice he developed during the Year of Mercy: making a Friday-afternoon visit to people in need of or deserving special care.

For the visit March 31, he chose the Sant’ Alessio-Margherita di Savoia Regional Center for the Blind in Rome. The center is home to 37 adults and senior citizens who are blind or severely visually impaired, but the structure also offers specialized classes for 50 children with the same -challenges.

“With this visit, the pope wants to continue the so-called Mercy Friday visits carried out during the Jubilee of Mercy,” the Vatican said in a statement. The visits were designed to reflect the spiritual and corporal works of mercy with “those who live in situations of physical and social exclusion.”

The pope’s visit was scheduled to last about two hours.

The center was founded in 1868 by lay Catholics with the support of Pope Pius IX and specialized in giving a general education to children who were blind, teaching them to read Braille. It also teamed up with Rome’s Santa Cecilia Conservatory, offering many of the young students a musical education.

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