Pope Francis  (AFP or licensors)

By Salvatore Cernuzio

Apr 24 2024

Friends and supporters from around the world offer prayers and best wishes to Pope Francis on the feast of his heavenly patron, St George.

Messages of support and gratitude for Pope Francis are pouring in from all over the world on the feast of St George, the Pope’s Name Day. 

Baptised Jorge [George] Mario Bergoglio, the pontiff takes his name from the Christian martyr born in Cappadocia and and martyred, according to some sources, in 303 A.D. in Lidda, now Lod, Israel. The saint suffered for refusing to deny the faith during the anti-Christian persecutions unleashed by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. 

“Happy Name Day, Pope Francis!”

The reigning Pope’s “Name Day” is customarily a public holiday in the Vatican, with Pope Francis himself instituting the current holiday in April 2016, in Article 50 of the General Regulations of the Roman Curia. 

Well-wishers from around the world are sending their greetings to Santa Marta, while also expressing feelings of affection and gratitude and assuring the Pope of their prayers on social media. 

Italian president sends greetings

Sergio Mattarella, the President of Italy, joined those who are offering the Pope their best wishes, sending Pope Francis a message in which he conveys “the most fervent and sincere good wishes of the Italian people and my own personal best wishes, together with affectionate desires for the health and wellbeing for your person.”

President Mattarella’s message continues, “As you recently declared, ‘No one must threaten the existence of others’,” citing the Pope’s words in at a recent Angelus in reference to the war in the Middle East. “Even this fundamental rule, this ‘minimum level’ of human coexistence, is called into question in the dramatic context of an international and, in particular, Middle Eastern juncture marked by violence, conflicts, and impulses of revenge,” the Italian president stressed.

“Your appeals to safeguard the inescapable bonds of fraternity are therefore timely and pressing – appeals that do not cease to challenge the consciences of millions of women and men on every continent and that constitute fertile seeds of justice and peace for believers and non-believers alike,” he continued. 

Finally, President Matterella took the occasion of the feast of Saint George, to renew “the expressions of the closeness of the Italian people and my highest consideration for your exalted apostolic mission.”

Previous celebrations

In past years, Pope Francis has celebrated this day with a variety of initiatives, including the Mass in the Pauline Chapel with the cardinals in 2013, the first year of his pontificate; the distribution of ice cream in 2018, through the Apostolic Elemosineria to food centres in Rome and the surrounding area where the most needy eat; and the gift, during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, of medical equipment to hospitals in Spain, Romania and Italy, which were particularly affected by the spread of the virus, again through the Cardinal Almoner, Konrad Krajewski.

The Covid pandemic was still raging on the feast of St George in 2021, when the Pope decided to celebrate his name day by making a surprise visit to greet about 600 poor and homeless people, who were waiting to receive the vaccine in the Paul VI Hall, which had become a small outpatient clinic since January of that year. After greeting those present, the Pope went to the counters where packets of biscuits, snacks and fruit juices, along with portions of an enormous, traditional chocolate egg, were distributd by volunteers, in accordance with the health regulations in place at the time. 

Vatican News staff contributed to this report.  Vatican News