Pope Francis makes surprise visit to Rome shantytown

Pontiff makes impromptu stop at shantytown en route to Pietralata

Pope Francis made a surprise visit to a shantytown in Rome's outskirts on the evening of 8 February, stunning the many South American residents.

The pope was on his way to a pastoral visit in the disadvantaged eastern suburb of Pietralata, when he requested a detour to the shantytown he had heard about.

Residents of the Campo Arcobaleno settlement, many of them from Peru and Ecuador, were shocked to see Pope Francis appear in front of their shacks, according to local parish priest Aristide Sana.

The pontiff prayed in Spanish with the community whose 150 members are mainly immigrants from South America but also include Russians, Eritreans, Ukrainians and Polish.

Following the pope's ten-minute visit to the camp, he continued to the troubled Pietralata suburb which was built in the 1930s for those evicted following Mussolini's restructuring of downtown Rome.