Pope Francis pictured during a jubilee audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican June 30. Pope Francis has been paying for trips and food for homeless people in Rome to go to the beach. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Pope Francis treats homeless to pizza and swim at the beach

By  Josephine McKenna, Religion News Service
  • August 15, 2016

ROME – As millions of people around the world enjoy their annual summer vacation, Pope Francis is providing a beach escape for those who cannot afford it.

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, 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.”

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 is paid for by 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.

Around 100 homeless from countries including Afghanistan, Albania, Ukraine and Italy have already 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?’”

Francis himself 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.”

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