“I Was a Stranger and You Took Me In…” The Papal Almoner

Pope Francis greets one of eight poor people at his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Dec. 17, the pope's 78th birthday. A group of the poor were invited to the audience in celebration of the pope's birthday. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-AUDIENCE Dec. 17, 2014.

Pope Francis greets one of eight poor people at his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Dec. 17, the pope’s 78th birthday. A group of the poor were invited to the audience in celebration of the pope’s birthday. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The Pope has asked a Polish archbishop to be his “hands” in Rome, reaching out to the city’s poor and homeless. The first in a series… 

Pope Francis has said he would like St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican to be an example to ca­th­edrals around the world in offering charity to the poor and marginalized, including the homeless. For this reason, he has asked his almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, to develop effective programs for helping Rome’s poor and homeless, including offering a shelter to sleep in, showers, and a soup kitchen for meals. Krajewski also brings money directly from Pope Francis to families in danger of having their electricity cut off, to pay their electric bills. In this section, each month we will publish news and photos of these various initiatives, which the Pope intends to be exemplary for the entire Catholic Church. —The Editor

Images of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis are seen as volunteers hand out gift packs to poor people after Mass at St. Anne's Parish at the Vatican Dec. 19. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Images of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis are seen as volunteers hand out gift packs to poor people after Mass at St. Anne’s Parish at the Vatican Dec. 19 (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Two Refugee Families Housed by Vatican Parishes

Two refugee families are now being hosted by the two parishes of the Vatican, in response to the September 6, 2015, Angelus appeal of Pope ­Francis for every parish in Europe to welcome a family of refugees.

The parish of Sant’Anna has provided a nearby apartment for a Christian Syrian family, consisting of the parents and two children.

The parish of St. Peter’s Basilica has provided an apartment for an Eritrean family consisting of a mother and her five children, three of whom are already in Italy, and two others who are still in a refugee camp in Ethiopia, although they are expected to be reunited in the coming weeks. Another woman and her child also live in the apartment. The parishes were assisted in the process by His Holiness’ almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, and the Sant’Egidio Community.

Pope Francis met briefly with the Syrian family shortly after they moved into their apartment in September. —Vatican Radio

Pope Francis listens as Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, offers an explanation during the pope's visit to a new homeless shelter for men in Rome Oct. 15. Housed in a Jesuit-owned building, the shelter was created by and is run with funds from the papal almoner. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano, handout) See SHELTER-ROME Oct. 13, 2015.

Pope Francis listens as Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, offers an explanation during the pope’s visit to a new homeless shelter for men in Rome Oct. 15. Housed in a Jesuit-owned building, the shelter was created by and is run with funds from the papal almoner. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano, handout)

Vatican Shelters Homeless Romanian Woman who Gave Birth on the Street

It was about two in the morning on January 20, one of the coldest nights of recent years in Rome, with temperatures below zero, when a police patrol in the area around St. Peter’s Square found a homeless woman who was giving birth on the street.

One of the agents of the Vatican police force became momentarily an improvised midwife. “When I came near her, I saw the baby’s head, and soon I realized that it had been born,” explained officer Maria Capone the next day.

“To ward off the cold, the woman had only a few old blankets and cartons, and so our main concern was the health of the little one,” Capone told the police, who helped the mother in childbirth on the sidewalk of the Piazza Pio XII adjacent to the front of St. Peter’s.

While waiting for the ambulance, they covered the newborn in its first minutes of life with a sweatshirt to protect it from the “near polar” night.

Mother and daughter were then taken to the nearby Santo Spirito Hospital, where doctors found that both were fine. The baby, who weighed 2.9 kilos (about 6.5 pounds) and was named Irene, the next day received a visit from the police patrol. The papal almoner for Pope Francis, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, also visited the woman, already known as a habitué of the Square who had been offered refuge on several occasions, which she and her partner had rejected. The almoner repeated his offer of help, and now mother and daughter will spend a year in the shelter of the congregation of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Vatican sources have said that little Irene will not have Vatican citizenship, as the place she chose to come into the world is outside of the Holy See’s boundaries. —La Voz de Galicia

A clown of Rony Roller Circus stands next to spectators during a Jan. 14 show offered by Pope Francis to needy people in Rome. Poor residents, the homeless, refugees and some prisoners were offered a special treat by the Vatican for the free show. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters) See ALMONER-CIRCUS-POOR Jan. 14, 2016.

A clown of Rony Roller Circus stands next to spectators during a Jan. 14 show offered by Pope Francis to needy people in Rome. Poor residents, the homeless, refugees and some prisoners were offered a special treat by the Vatican for the free show. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Pope Francis offers circus tickets to Rome’s poor and needy

Crowds of homeless people, refugees and paroled prisoners took a trip to the circus courtesy of the Vatican’s charity office on Thursday, in the latest gesture of affection for the poor and needy which has been a hallmark of Pope Francis’ papacy.

The Vatican ferried about 1,000 adults and children in coaches to the big top on the outskirts of Rome to watch a knife-throwing act and white horses dancing to Latin music.

The show’s opening number was a song written for the Pope by a homeless Spanish singer-songwriter, though Francis himself was not present. Doctors were on hand to give free medical advice to anyone who wanted it.

One of the attendees, a homeless Polish man named Marek, said the event satisfied the common need for “a bit of fun.”

“We can’t always be sad for the things that have happened. We need to be able to find a small, small space to be light-hearted,” he said. — Reuters

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