VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis’ outreach to the homeless with showers, shelters and other services may have its youngest beneficiary — an infant born on a street near St. Peter’s Square.
A homeless woman gave birth on a cardboard box mere yards from the Vatican on Wednesday (Jan. 20) in near-freezing temperatures, according to Reuters.
Police said the 35-year-old Romanian woman gave birth to a baby girl with the aid of police officers.
The head of Pope Francis’ charity office, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, later visited the woman and baby in a hospital a few blocks away and offered her one year’s free accommodation in a church-owned apartment, a Vatican spokesman said.
Krajewski knew both the mother and her partner because they use showers and food services the Vatican provides to a growing number of homeless in the area.
Serving the homeless has been an ongoing theme for Pope Francis.
- In June, he donated money for two busloads of poor people to travel from Rome to see the Shroud of Turin, a cloth that many believe covered Jesus after he was crucified.
- In March, Francis invited 150 mostly homeless people to a private viewing of the Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel.
- In February, he asked that showers be set up for homeless people under the colonnade of St. Peter’s Square. The Vatican’s charity office began offering haircuts and shaves by professional volunteers, as part of the shower service.
- And earlier this month the Vatican treated 2,000 people — the poor, homeless, refugees and a group of prisoners — to a visit to a circus in Rome.
There have been rumors that the pope occasionally sneaks out of the Vatican to join those helping homeless people, although his staff insists that is an urban legend.
Of course, Francis is not the first pope to reach out to the poor and homeless. Mother Teresa persuaded St. John Paul II to open a soup kitchen and homeless shelter just inside the Vatican walls in the 1980s.
(Rosie Scammell covers the Vatican for RNS and Cathy Grossman is a national reporter for RNS)