Pope Benedict XVI brings toys, books and sweets for children at Rome's Gemelli hospital

The Pope visited Rome’s Gemelli hospital yesterday, blessing a ward for the treatment of children with spina bifida, a birth defect.

Pope Benedict XVI also brought toys, books, and sweets for the children to mark the Epiphany. The children, many of whom were in wheelchairs, then gave the Pope small statues of the Magi and some of their drawings. The Holy Father greeted hospital staff, and spoke to the children and their families, telling the children that they were in his prayers.

He added that he had come to give them strength to help them overcome their illnesses, and said that the child Jesus in the crib was sent by God to show us how much we are loved by him.

The Gemelli hospital is named after the Franciscan physician and psychologist Agostino Gemelli, who founded the hospital in 1959. Known as the Policlinico, it is one of Rome’s teaching hospitals. Pope John Paul II was taken to the Gemelli after the attempted assassination in 1981, and where he was treated before his death.