Pope makes Xmas visit to Rome kids hospital

Pope makes Xmas visit to Rome kids hospital
Pope Francis visiting the "Bambino Gesu" children's hospital in Rome. Photo: AFP
Pope Francis on Saturday paid a pre-Christmas visit to dozens of children at a Catholic paediatric hospital in Rome, observing a decades-old papal tradition.

Stopping in the hospital's chapel, the pope was given a basket containing handwritten messages from the children.

"Thank you for your dreams and prayers that you have put in this basket," the pope said, according to a Vatican statement. "Let's entrust them together to the Lord, who knows them more than anyone."

Heading into the various wards during the visit of nearly three hours, the 77-year-old pontiff waved away photographers, saying: "I'm here for the patients."

The Vatican-owned hospital, Bambino Gesu (Baby Jesus), is Europe's largest paediatric research centre, with a staff of 2,600 serving some 27,000 patients each year.

Pope John XXIII began the tradition of papal visits to Bambino Gesu at Christmastime in 1958.

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