Pope Francis blesses a baby during a visit to a Caritas center for the homeless near the Termini rail station in Rome Dec. 18. The pope opened a Door of Mercy at the center. CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano, handout

Pope to welcome homeless on pilgrimage to Rome

By  Gaby Maniscalco, Catholic News Service
  • May 3, 2016

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis will welcome several thousand homeless and vulnerable people from all over Europe when they make a pilgrimage to Rome in November.

European organizations that help the homeless are invited to participate in the European Festival of Joy and Mercy, which will take place Nov. 11-13. The event organizers — the Fratello association — are inviting 6,000 homeless, vulnerable and marginalized people to take part.

The pilgrimage includes an audience led by Pope Francis, a papal Mass, the Stations of the Cross and a tour of Rome. There will be a gathering to hear people's personal testimonies and a prayer "Vigil of Mercy" with Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon, France.

"This time of pilgrimage and opportunity to meet Pope Francis will give people from the most vulnerable sections of society, who are often treated as outcasts, a chance to discover that their place is in the heart of God and in the heart of the Church," the Fratello association said in a press release May 2. Those who assist the vulnerable on a day-to-day basis are also invited to attend.

The event follows Pope Francis' continued efforts to increase outreach to the homeless, especially those who live near the Vatican. Sleeping bags were handed out at Christmas, showers were installed in the public bathrooms in St. Peter's Square and a special, private tour of the Vatican Gardens and Vatican Museums was arranged. In 2015, the Pope also opened a shelter for homeless men.

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