Pope Francis was treated to a special presentation Saturday when young people, including several disabled youth in wheelchairs, performed traditional dances for him during his papal visit to Georgia Saturday.
The performance took place during a meeting held outside one of the
buildings of the Assistance Center of the Camillian Order in Tbilisi,
and included several typical dances with traditional Georgian dress.
Around 700 people, including the sick, disabled, and volunteers and
workers of the various charity organizations of the Catholic Church in
Georgia were all present at the Oct. 1 meeting.
Immediately before the performance, Pope Francis spoke to those
present saying he was happy to be with them, even if was just for a
little while, and offered his encouragement.
“God never turns away,” the Pope said. “He is always close to you,
ready to listen, to give you his strength in times of difficulty.”
“You are the beloved of Jesus, who wished to identify himself with
all who suffer, he himself having suffered in his passion,” he said, and
thanked those who assist the sick and disabled for their service.
Welcomed by the Director of the Assistance Center of the Camillian
Order and the Director of Caritas Georgia, the meeting was part of the
Pope's Sept. 30-Oct. 2 visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan.
The trip is seen as a conclusion of his Caucasus tour, following his
visit to Armenia in June. So far, the Pope's speeches have largely
focused on the need for peace and unity between people.
Greeting the elderly, sick, suffering and those assisting them at the
meeting, Pope Francis compared charitable initiatives to the “ripe
fruit of a Church that serves, offers hope and shows forth God's mercy.”
“I encourage you to pursue this demanding yet fruitful path,” he
continued. “The poor and weak are the 'flesh of Christ' who call upon
Christians of every confession, urging them to act without personal
interests, following only the prompting of the Holy Spirit.”
The meeting, he said, “is a witness to communion and a means of fostering the way of unity.”
Fr. Pawel Dyl, a Polish Camillian brother who works at the Assistance
Center, told CNA that the dances and singing were thought of “as a
moment of rest for the Holy Father” amid his busy schedule.
The chair Pope Francis sat on during the brief encounter was the same
one used by St. John Paul II during his trip to Georgia in 1999.
Located in a poor area of the city, the Assistance Center itself is
an unfinished structure, constructed from two other buildings put
Since March 1998, it has welcomed patients from all over Tbilisi,
particularly the poor, guaranteeing medical care with modern
procedures.With all the typical wards of a medical clinic, the center
has the latest equipment for procedures such as blood analysis, and has
many family physicians.
The clinic is not only a place where one can go to get a good level
of care at a reasonable price, but is also a refuge for the poor.
According to Fr. Dyl, when it was built “Georgia was a country after a
war. It looked like a cemetery, because every house lit candles, since
there was no electricity.” Many came to the clinic “only to get warm,
because the house had no heat.”
The center also provides support for poor families by distributing
essential goods and food. Many of the poor are refugees who came from
South Ossetia during the 2008 war involving Georgia, Russia and the
Russian-backed, self-proclaimed republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Since 2002, there is also a center for disabled called “San Camillo,”
which holds 50 people that are treated alternately in shifts of 25 per
day. It will soon be turned into a night center as well.
When the Camillian Order first thought of building the center, they
faced challenges in obtaining the necessary permission due to the many
difficulties involved in the construction.
However, as a response a group of Missionaries of Charity sisters
living in Georgia prayed and put medals of the Virgin Mary in the ground
where the center would later be built.
Eventually, benefactors appeared and they were able to cover the
The structure is more than 430,000 square feet – double the size
they were expecting. “I sometimes jokingly say to the sisters they have
overdone the medals,” Fr. Dyl jested.
In the Oct. 1 meeting with Pope Francis, many disabled were present
to meet the Pope, who, in keeping with his unique tenderness toward
them, stopped to greet and bless many of them individually on his way
Speaking to the workers and volunteers present, Francis said that
“through your care, you express in an eloquent way love of neighbor
which is the hallmark of Christ’s disciples.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, your mission is a great one!
Continue to live out charity in the Church, and to manifest this charity
in all areas of society with the zealous love that comes from God.”