January 21, 2016

Homeless baby, born on the street, embraced by pope’s charity

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A homeless man sits under the right colonnade close to where the showers are going to be built in St. Peter's square at the Vatican on Thursday (Nov 13, 2014). Religion News Service photo by Josephine McKenna

A homeless man sits under the right colonnade close to where the showers are going to be built in St. Peter's square at the Vatican on Thursday (Nov 13, 2014). Religion News Service photo by Josephine McKenna

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.


RELATED STORY: Surprise! Pope Francis stops by Vatican’s new homeless shelter


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.
Pope Francis visits with homeless who are served meals by Catholic charities, in Washington, DC, on September 24, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Pool *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-POPE-HOMELESS, originally transmitted on Sept. 24, 2015.

Pope Francis visits with homeless who are served meals by Catholic charities in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 24, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Pool *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-VATICAN-BABY, originally transmitted on Jan. 21, 2016.


RELATED STORY: Pope Francis embraces Washington’s hungry: ‘No justification for homelessness’


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)

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  • Betty Clermont

    Considering the pope’s income in 2013 was 428 million euro ( 378 million from Peter’s Pence according to bloomberg.com and 50 million from the Vatican bank ““offered the Holy Father in support of his apostolic and charitable ministry.” lastampa.it) he can afford it. Additionally, the pope’s “charities” are always collaborative efforts e.g. the showers. A change of underwear and personal hygiene articles are “offered free of charge by various firms and private individuals.” The Office of Papal Charities purchases supplies as needed “using money raised from the selling of parchments with a Papal Blessing,” “300 umbrellas – left by tourists in the Vatican Museums – had been distributed to the homeless” and parishes contributed to this project including “building the shower block beneath the colonnade.’” (lastampa.it)

  • samuel johnston

    It is an interesting commentary on his Church that these acts of charity are considered newsworthy.