Pope heads to Venice in first trip of 2024

Pope heads to Venice in first trip of 2024

10:54 PM April 28, 2024

Pope Francis sits on a boat as he arrives on the day of a meeting with young people at the Square in front of the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute, in Venice, Italy, April 28, 2024. REUTERS/YARA NARDI

VENICE, ITALY — Pope Francis flew into Venice on Sunday for his first trip of the year, testing his mobility and resilience after a number of health scares in recent months.

The Venice trip is the first of four in Italy planned for the next three months. He is scheduled to visit Verona in May and Trieste in July, and is also expected to attend a June summit of Group of Seven (G7) leaders in Bari.


In September, he is set to embark on what may be the longest foreign trip of his papacy, traveling to Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Singapore and Papua New Guinea on Sept. 2 to 13.


READ: The life and times of Pope Francis as he marks his 10th anniversary as pontiff

This was the 87-year-old Pope’s first visit to the lagoon city since his 2013 election and also the first time a pontiff has been to the Venice Biennale—a prestigious art show with exhibitions sponsored by many countries.

‘Overcrowding, violence’

The Vatican’s exhibition has been set up in a women’s prison and the Pope kicked off his trip by flying directly into the Giudecca jail by helicopter to view the show entitled “Through My Eyes.”

“Prison is a harsh reality, and problems such as overcrowding, the lack of facilities and resources, and episodes of violence, give rise to a great deal of suffering. But it can also become a place of moral and material rebirth,” he said.

“Let us not forget that we all have mistakes to be forgiven and wounds to heal,” he told a group of inmates and guards seated in the courtyard of the prison.

The unusual decision to house the Holy See pavilion in the jail highlights Francis’ repeated calls for society to rally around the poor and neglected, including prison populations.


The Vatican exhibit features creations by nine contemporary artists who worked closely with inmates on the project.

Exempt from entry fee

This is the Pope’s first trip beyond Rome since a brief visit to the French city of Marseilles in September last year. He had been due to attend a climate change conference in the United Arab Emirates in December, but pulled out shortly beforehand after coming down with influenza.

Francis uses a cane or a wheelchair to move around due to a knee ailment, and suffers from repeated bouts of bronchitis and flu. He unexpectedly withdrew from a Good Friday procession in March “to preserve his health,” but has looked well since.

After leaving the jail, he was due to travel by motorboat to the 16th-century church of La Madeleine to talk to young Venetians, and then to St. Mark’s Basilica for a Mass that an estimated 10,000 people are expected to attend.

As a guest, he was exempt from buying a five-euro ($5.30) ticket, but nonresident pilgrims visiting for the Mass had to pay.

Over the weekend Venice launched a new entry fee for day-trippers, aimed at easing the pressure of tourism on the Unesco World Heritage Site.

Francis is the fourth pope to visit the city, after Paul VI (1972), Jean-Paul II (1985) and Benedict XVI (2011).

The diocese of Venice is one of the largest in Italy, with 125 parishes, and has close ties with the papacy. Three Venice patriarchs became popes in the 20th century.

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The Argentine pontiff has toured the world in his 11 years as head of the Catholic Church, but has not traveled since last September. —REPORTS FROM REUTERS AND AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TAGS: Giudecca jail, La Madeleine, Pope Francis, St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice, Venice Biennale

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