After reading the following what questions does it raise for Vincentian Family ministries with the homeless.
The Pope’s concern for the physical well-being of those who have no place to call home is well known. What might not be sufficiently appreciated is how he is modeling pastoral care that blends concern for the spiritual and emotional aspects of the human dignity of those who have no roof over their heads. He has thought of things many others might not be sensitive to.
Who would have thought that a Pope would have shower stalls, a barbershop and a health clinic for the poor installed under Bernini’s colonnades in St. Peter’s Square? Would you have imagined a Pope inviting the marginalized and unwelcome to a private tour of the Vatican museums and greeting them saying “Welcome, this is a house for all. Your house.” He then spent 20 minutes greeting them … one by one.
We might have taken note that he had pocket-size Gospels distributed during one of his weekly Angelus prayers. But who could have imagined the Pope making them VIPs at a concert organized in the Paul VI Hall, a short walk away from Santa Marta, the hotel within Vatican grounds where he lives.
And now he gives them the last word in the Year of mercy.
The Year of Mercy will certainly bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to Rome. But, in another first, who would have thought of inviting the homeless to make a pilgrimage to Rome in the Year of Mercy? Pope Francis did!
Several thousand homeless will travel to Rome in November, representing a perfect close to the Year of Mercy for a Pope who made it clear from the beginning that the poor and those at the “peripheries of life” have a special place in his heart.
According to a statement released on Monday, 6,000 people living in the streets all across Europe will visit the Eternal City a week before the closing of the Holy Year, with the financial help of Fratello, a French organization born after a similar pilgrimage experience organized for 150 homeless persons in 2014.
“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 statement says.
The group will travel to Rome Nov. 11-13, where they’ll attend a special catechesis session with Pope Francis, and also a Mass celebrated for them in St. Peter’s Square.
According to their website, Fratello is an association backed by the French affiliate of the international Catholic charity Caritas, and it works with other groups that help people living in situations of exclusion.
Each group will help the underprivileged they care for on a daily basis to cover the cost of the pilgrimage, but the organization, through donations made by individuals, will also assist those who can’t pay the full cost of the trip.
Taken together all these gestures are his way of underlining another dimension of his approach to charity: not giving them “only” food, but also restoring their human dignity.
It occurs to me that all Vincentian-based organizations can reflect on how well we reflect the example of Pope Francis. As we provide “services” how mindful are we of restoring the human dignity of those we serve?