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Pope Francis treats homeless to pizza and swim at the beach

Pope Francis gestures during his Sunday Angelus prayer in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican on July 17, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Tony Gentile
Pope Francis gestures during his Sunday Angelus prayer in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican on July 17, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Pope Francis gestures during his Sunday Angelus prayer in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican on July 17, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Tony Gentile

ROME (RNS) As millions of people around the world enjoy their annual summer vacations, Pope Francis is providing a beach escape for those who cannot afford them.

In the latest sign of Francis’ concern for the poor, the pope’s almoner — the Vatican official in charge of distributing alms — is treating homeless people in Rome to a trip to the beach and to a pizza dinner on the way back home.

“We continue, with the Swiss Guards and the gendarmes (Vatican police officers), to take food to the Rome railway stations in the evening,” Archbishop Konrad Krajewski told Vatican Insider, a column published by the Italian daily, La Stampa.

“But in the afternoon, using our van, I take groups of 10 homeless for a swim.”


READ: Pope Francis invites Syrian refugees to lunch in Vatican


Krajewski, a Polish-born official in the Roman Curia who looks after the pontiff’s charity funds, said he has been driving the homeless to a beach at Passoscuro, about 25 miles from the Italian capital, and stopping at a local pizzeria on the way back.

The guests, who mainly live around the Vatican, are also given swimsuits and towels for their trip and their pizza. All expenses are paid with funds that the pope can distribute for charitable services.

“We are certainly not saving the world with these initiatives, we are not solving the problems of the homeless in Rome, but at least we are giving them back a little dignity,” Krajewski said.

Francis has demonstrated his commitment to help the homeless throughout his pontificate. In a controversial move, he installed showers for the homeless beside the colonnade in St. Peter’s Square, as well as a barber service and medical service.

Last year the pope opened a dormitory for destitute men near the Vatican and in 2014 he handed out 400 sleeping bags to the homeless in Rome.

Also, on consecutive days last week, Francis sent a message to those in the West who oppose offering sanctuary to many refugees by inviting 21 Syrian exiles to lunch in the Vatican, and he followed that by making a surprise visit to 20 women rescued from sexual slavery.

On Monday (Aug. 15), he used the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary to reinforce his message on protecting women.

Mary’s example, Francis told pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, “leads us to think about many current sad situations, in particular those women overwhelmed by the weight of life and the drama of violence; of women who are slaves to the arrogance of the powerful; the girls forced into inhumane work; the women forced to surrender in both body and spirit to the avarice of men.”


READ: Pope Francis meets women rescued from sex trade


Francis seems intent on making sure that such initiatives are not one-time acts of generosity but are the defining witness of the Catholic Church.

In a noontime address on Sunday (Aug. 14), the pope warned that the church was in danger of becoming “an administrative or bureaucratic” institution and called for more impassioned missionaries with “fire” in their hearts.

“The Church doesn’t need bureaucrats and diligent office workers but impassioned missionaries consumed by the ardor of bringing to all people the consoling words of Christ,” he said during his weekly Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square.

The church, he said, “needs the help of the Holy Spirit to not be held back through fear and calculation, to not get used to walking within safe boundaries.”

Without the “fire” of the Holy Spirit, he said, the church “becomes a cold or merely lukewarm church, incapable of giving life, because it is made up of cold and lukewarm Christians.”

So far around 100 homeless from countries including Afghanistan, Albania, Ukraine and Italy have taken part in Krajewski’s beach tours.

“For our brothers in need who are used to living in insecurity, these are occasions that remain in their memory, they have the chance to feel like everyone else,” said Krajewski.

“Already more than one, upon seeing me again, has asked: ‘Father, when will you take us back to the sea?’”

(Josephine McKenna covers the Vatican for Religion News Service)

About the author

Josephine McKenna

Josephine McKenna has more than 30 years' experience in print, broadcast and interactive media. Based in Rome since 2007, she covered the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and election of Pope Francis and canonizations of their predecessors. Now she covers all things Vatican for RNS.

4 Comments

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  • These are great gestures to remind the homeless that they’ve not been forgotten. But as readers of comments on here know, my concern is that most programs do little more than maintain the homeless in their condition, without presenting any avenues for change. In this arena I’m solidly on the side of the innovators, not the bleeding-hearts.

    In Denver several years ago the downtown Presbyterian church created a homeless program that is now self-sustaining, paid for by the homeless themselves. They are taken in off the streets, provided food and housing, their alcohol, drug addiction and mental health issues addressed, then provided job training and interviewing skills. When they get on their feet with their own place to live, they give back to the New Genesis program, to assure it’s sustainability. We hand out New Genesis brochures to those standing by off-ramps begging for money. We’re offering them hope and a way out of homelessness. Some choose to take it.

  • As Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi told us in their books “Merchants in the Temple” and “Avarice: Documents Revealing Wealth, Scandals and Secrets of Francis’ Church” Pope Francis was given €378 million in 2013 from a worldwide collection from Catholics to be used for charity. (Subsequent years have been secret.) The pope gives only 20% of that to charity. Fittipaldi revealed there are several accounts in the Vatican Bank designated for charity which give nothing or very little. In 2013 and 2014, the fund available to the Vatican Bank’s Commission of Cardinals – led by Cardinal Santos Abril y Castelló, Pope Francis’ close friend –
    gave nothing to charity despite a “net surplus” of €425,000. Each year, the Vatican Bank gives its profits to the pope for his charities. Undisclosed is the amount of money given directly to the pope by celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio, etc .etc.
    The author also fails to mention that Krajewski receives donations from individuals and groups – the amounts also kept secret – as well as depending on volunteers to provide services to the poor. So, yes, the pope can afford to chip in for beach towels and pizza.

  • “We are certainly not saving the world with these initiatives, we are not solving the problems of the homeless in Rome, but at least we are giving them back a little dignity,” Krajewski said.

    Okay, this is a good thing. And, as Betty said, there is so much more that could be done. So Much More

  • Nice gesture. God bless Francis the lover of the poor, the homeless, the refugee and the migrant.

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