Pope swings by summer camp to say hi to the kids

Pope Francis decided to take a little stroll from his place to visit the children attending the Vatican’s summer camps – much to the surprise of its organisers and attendees.

Father Franco Fontana, a chaplain at the Vatican who oversees the program, almost missed the unexpected visit on Monday morning.

“The kids were so stunned they stayed completely silent” – Father Franco Fontana

Father Fontana had just left to make some photocopies when he learned the pontiff was on his way. But he managed to get back in time to welcome the Pope.

The kids, who were just finishing up their breakfast in the Paul VI audience hall, were equally surprised to see Pope Francis. In fact, Father Fontana reported: “The kids were so stunned they stayed completely silent” – which any kids camp worker can attest is a rare and special blessing.

“I froze because it was a surprise and I had never seen him before. I liked him a lot. I was very happy and I said ‘hello,’” ten-year-old Zoe told Vatican News. Zoe was one of about 100 children of Vatican employees attending a summer camp this month

The Vatican summer camps were something Pope Francis was eager to see go ahead. He hoped they would support Vatican employees with families during the pandemic, as COVID-19 restrictions continue and there is a reduced number of organised summer activities available.

Summer camp attendees have the opportunity to take part in activities such swimming, tennis, basketball, games and walks in the Vatican Gardens – with the entire program run in compliance with the Italian government’s protocols and recommendations for preventing coronavirus spread. It is organised by Catholic society Salesians of Don Bosco, along with a private association – “Tutti in una Festa” – which is Italian for “All in One Party”.

After chatting to the kids about the day’s activities and checking they were happy, Pope Francis greeted each of the 22 camp counsellors, posed for a group photo with everyone, then set off on his walk home.