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Pope Francis in Venice

Matthew Neugebauer

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Pope Francis is visiting Venice on Sunday, April 28. Overlooking the Grand Canal is the Basilica of Santa Maria Della Salute, where the pope will meet with young people from across the Veneto region. iStock Photo.
The Holy See Press Office released the program for Pope Francis' trip to Venice coming up this Sunday. It will be a quick jaunt up to La Serenissima in the morning, and then back to Rome in the afternoon. We'll have the full broadcast for you in English starting at 10:30 am ET / 7:30 am PT and in French starting at 3:30 pm ET / 12:30 pm PT. Subscribers can watch on Salt + Light TV and on Salt + Light Plus.
Pastoral visits to parts of Italy are like miniature versions of his apostolic visits abroad. In this case, the pope will take a 90-minute helicopter ride up, meet with young people and dignitaries, celebrate Sunday Mass in front of Venice's gilded centrepiece, St. Mark's Basilica, recite the customary Regina Caeli prayer and address, and then take another 90-minute chopper ride back to the Vatican.
Two items stand out on Sunday's agenda, both occurring in the first half of the trip. His flight from Rome will land directly in the courtyard of the Women's Prison on the southern island of Giudecca. He'll greet and give an address to the inmates themselves, while also greeting Patriarch Francesco Moraglia (Venice's archbishop gets a patriarchal honorific just like Lisbon's) and the prison's leadership and staff. Putting this visit to the prison first on the agenda is no mere practicality – it signals Pope Francis' focus on mercy and compassionate presence over judgement and power. His choice mirrors the one he made this past Holy Thursday, when he visited a women's prison to celebrate Mass as well as previous high-profile visits to prisons.
The second standout event is his visit to the Holy See's pavilion of the Biennale Arte, an international festival of contemporary art hosted in Venice every two years. The pavilion, which was curated by the Dicastery for Culture and Education and led by the dicastery's prefect Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça, is itself in the Giudecca Prison. The pavilion’s art installation continues the theme of merciful and compassionate presence by evoking a healing encounter between inmates and the outside world. This encounter in turn provokes a focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment. 
The Holy Father will conclude the Giudecca portion of the visit with an address to the artists and participants of the pavilion in the prison chapel.
The second leg of the visit will include the above mentioned meeting with youth from the wider Veneto region at Santa Maria Della Salute, one of the many basilicas built in thanksgiving for the end of the 17th-century plague. The Marian title of this Venetian basilica – Our Lady of Health – is very much akin to the pope’s most public Marian devotion, Salus Populi Romani, Our Lady, Health (or Protectress) of the Roman People. After Mass and the Regina Caeli in St. Mark's Square, he'll board the helicopter and return to Vatican City.

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