Pope Francis greeting pilgrims at the general audience, Oct. 19, 2022 / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Oct 19, 2022 / 07:10 am (CNA).

The Vatican announced Wednesday that Pope Francis will pay a private visit to his relatives in northern Italy next month.

The pope will travel to the Italian town of Asti, outside of Turin, on Nov. 19 to celebrate the 90th birthday of his cousin, according to Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni.

Following the private meeting with family members, the pope will stay overnight in the Piedmont region to offer a public Mass in the Asti Cathedral for the Solemnity of Christ the King on Nov. 20.

The weekend visit will bring the 85-year-old pope back to the Italian diocese where his father, Mario Josè Bergoglio, lived before emigrating from Italy to Argentina in 1929. The pope’s maternal grandparents also immigrated to Argentina from northern Italy.

Pope Francis, who was born in Buenos Aires in 1936, has maintained contact with relatives in Asti and Turin since his election as pope. During a visit to Turin in 2015, the pope had lunch with six of his cousins and their families.

Pope Francis inside the Church of Cottolengo in Turin, Italy, on June 21, 2015. Vatican Media
Pope Francis inside the Church of Cottolengo in Turin, Italy, on June 21, 2015. Vatican Media

The pope was profoundly influenced by his paternal grandmother Rosa, who was very religious. He has mentioned her in many homilies and quoted an Italian poem, “Rassa nostrana” by Nino Costa, which he said Rosa taught him in the local Piedmontese dialect.

In her spiritual testament, Rosa wrote: “May my grandsons, whom I gave the best of my heart, have a long and happy life. If one day pain, sickness or loss of a dear one will fill them with affliction, may they always remember that a breath in front of the Tabernacle, where the greatest and important martyr is secured, and a glance to Mary at the foot of the cross, can leave a drop of balsam on the deepest and most painful wounds.”