Pope Francis, Andrea Bocelli visit street evangelization center

Pope Francis with Andrea Bocelli at the general audience in the Paul VI Hall on Aug 2 2017 Credit LOsservatore Romano CNA Pope Francis and Andrea Bocelli at a General Audience in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, Aug. 2, 2017. | L'Osservatore Romano.

Pope Francis and Andrea Bocelli made a surprise visit Tuesday to a rehabilitation center outside of Rome.

Arriving in a blue Ford Focus, the pope visited the headquarters of the "Nuovi Orizzonti," or "New Horizons," community, in Frosinone, Italy, Vatican News reported Sept. 24.

New Horizons is an Italian non-profit organization recognized by the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life, that provides support through a faith-based "rehabilitative therapeutic program" for the poor and destitute on the streets.

For 25 years, the organization founded by Chiara Amirante has served the poor with a faith-centered appraoch to rehabilitation from substance abuse, while also providing sheter for homeless youth, aid to women in prostitution, and a ministry of street evangelization. With its headquarters in Frosinone, the organization has grown to have 200 training centers.

"I knew that Christ could bring life back where I saw death. They asked me to take them away with me, to know that Jesus I was talking about. What happened next went beyond my imagination," Amirante said of her ministry in the streets before the founding of New Horizons, according to Italian media.

Pope Francis visited for several hours the New Horizons' headquarters and site of the "Cittadella Cielo," or Heavenly Citadel project, an initiative to construct a "small village" to house single mothers and their children, teach vocational skills to homeless, assist people with AIDS, and train evangelization teams to volunteer in prisons or with at-risk youth. While there he planted an olive tree.

The Italian newspaper Avvenire posted photos of Pope Francis celebrating Mass at the New Horizons headquarters with Andrea Bocelli and other Italian celebrities present. Bocelli sang during the Mass.

During his homily the pope commented that "God shows his power in creation but even more in redemption, that is, in the victory of Jesus, in Jesus' victory over us, because there Jesus builds the temple, builds the Church, builds our lives. We cannot build our lives, we cannot keep the temple of our life standing, well, without Jesus, without trust in Jesus. It is He who will help us in this."

Bocelli has been a supporter of New Horizons for a number of years. The celebrity singer attended the inauguration of the Heavenly Citadel project in 2018 and is called a "Knight of Light of New Horizons."

Bocelli told Avvenire why he supports New Horizons: "Because I love the truth and I have decided to always be in the forefront of bringing it to others."

"Holy Father, his first words after the white smoke were 'Pray for me'. I don't know why, but I cried a lot that night. And again this morning," Bocelli said Sept. 24 during the visit to Frosinone with the pope.

Throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has made surprise visits, customarily on Fridays, to organizations practicing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Originally planned once per month during the Church's Jubilee of Mercy in 2016 as "Mercy Fridays," the pope continued these surprise visits, meeting with refugees, the terminally ill, and women freed from sex trafficking, among others.

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