“The Pope had expressed his desire to learn more about Greccio and the place from where the Crib has spread all around the world thanks to St Francis. Answering an invitation, shortly before Christmas, he told me that he would have come in a very reserved manner precisely because he wanted to enter the place of the first representation of the nativity scene which took place in 1223″. This is how the bishop of Rieti, Monsignor Domenico Pompili, commented on Pope Francis’ unexpected visit to the Franciscan Sanctuary of Greccio in an interview granted to TV2000 and Radio inBlu. The Franciscan Friars themselves have been struck by the Pope’s arrival: “When the Pontiff arrived – Father Alfredo Silvestri, guardian of Greccio Sanctuary, told TV2000 – we were not prepared. I was not even wearing the habit and I went quickly to the refectory to put it on. Then I opened the gate to the Pope. The most beautiful scene was the kiss Francis gave to the altar where we celebrate the Eucharist every morning. It was a moving gesture”.
The Vatica spread information about Pope’s visit to Rieti and Greccio in the evening. “Late in the morning – according to a note by Father Ciro Benedettini, deputy director of the Vatican press office – The Holy Father Francesco visited Rieti by car for a courtesy visit to the diocesan bishop Mons. Domenico Pompili and spent some time with the prelate. At 14,20, accompanied by the bishop, he departed to the Greccio Sanctuary where he arrived shortly before 3 p.m. Upon his arrival, he greeted a group of young participants in the diocesan meeting ‘Young Greccio 2016’. Then he moved – still according to the Benedictine Father – to the nearby sanctuary where he was welcomed by the Franciscan Friars. He stopped to pray in front of the fresco representing the first Crib made by St Francis of Assisi in Greccio. Then he greeted the Franciscan community of the Sanctuary, spending some time with the religious men”. Pope Francis left at “around 3.30 p.m., heading towards Rome by car, in his customary Ford Focus”.