Milan gears up for Pope Francis on 25 March

First papal visit since 2012.

The city of Saint Ambrose is in the final stages of preparation for the visit of Pope Francis on Saturday 25 March, and tickets for the high point of the visit, the closing Mass in Monza, are now available.

From Monday 21 March, tickets to the Mass no longer have to be booked through a parish organisation, but are available free on the visit website. But pre-booked parish groups will have priority at the entrance gates, and security checks for them will be simpler.

Pope Francis will arrive at Milan’s Linate airport on the early morning of Saturday. His first stop in the city will be in the “white houses” , the run-down council housing area in Milan’s Forlanini suburb, with its 20 crumbling, nine-storey tower blocks built in the 1970s, described by Catholic weekly Famiglia Cristiana as “abandoned by everybody but the parish”.

Organisers expect some 7,000 residents to be on hand to welcome Francis, who plans to visit three council apartments: one housing a family with a disabled relative, another with an elderly couple and a third with a family of Muslim immigrants.

The next stop is Milan’s beloved Duomo. Here Francis will meet ordained ministers and invited followers of the consecrated life in a private audience at 10.00, before emerging into the cathedral square to recite the Angelus prayer. For those unable to attend the Monza event, this will be the main opportunity to pray with the Pope.

In recent decades, the papal Angelus has become an occasion for the pontiff to address the faithful on the issues of the day which concern him most.

At 11.30, another event in Francis’ characteristic, socially-committed style: a visit to S. Vittore jail. Here the pope will meet and pray with inmates and wardens, and stop for a lunch prepared by prisoners with a very local menu: cutlet Milanese and potatoes.

The Milan church officials organising the programme describe the Mass in Monza park, starting at 15.00, as “the heart of the visit, [with] participation simple, free of charge and unlimited”. Francis will celebrate Mass together with 14 cardinals.

Cars and bikes will not be admitted to the park, but volunteers from Caritas will be on hand to help the disabled. Visitors will be allowed to carry camp stools, plastic bottles, umbrellas and a backpack, which will be inspected. The park’s 22 gates will open at 08.00, and visitors must be in place in the assigned sector printed on the ticket by 14.00. The walk from any gate to an assigned sector will vary between 15 and 40 minutes.

Regional commuter network Trenord has boosted connections with Monza from around the region, with a total of 408 trains starting at dawn. Commemorative single, family and group tickets are available at Trenord’s counters and on its website.

Before returning to the Vatican that evening, Francis will make a final stop at Milan’s S. Siro stadium. There he will address an invited congregation of youngsters preparing for confirmation or recently confirmed, together with their parents and godparents.

The last visit of a pope to Milan was by Benedict XVI in June 2012 for the seventh World Family Day. Before him, John Paul II visited the city twice: in May 1983 for the close of the 20th Eucharistic Council and in November 1984 for the fourth centenary of the death of St Carlo Borromeo.