No, I am not referring to a special ambulance to transport Pope Francis to the hospital should that become necessary.
Pope Francis recently donated an ambulance that will be set apart to serve Rome’s poor and homeless population in need of emergency medical care. The inspiration for this gift was the death of Modesta Valenti. She was a homeless woman who died after an ambulance refused to take her to the hospital because she had lice.
Some other points that caught my attention from this Catholic News Service article
- During the coronavirus pandemic, St. Peter’s Square itself became a refuge for Rome’s homeless who could not find a place in the shelters across the city.
- Despite added risks, the services for homeless men and women near the Vatican continued uninterrupted, including the papal charities-run showers and bathrooms, located under and between the right colonnade and a Vatican wall.
- Pope Francis also opened a four-story homeless shelter right off of the St. Peter’s Square colonnade in November. The homeless shelter, staffed by the Sant’Egidio community, has two floors of dormitories that can sleep 50 men and women, a kitchen to provide breakfast and dinner, and a recreation area for fellowship, educational programs, and psychological counseling.
These are just some of the ways Pope Francis has expressed his sensitivity to the homeless.
Here are some other ways he has shown unusual understanding of the needs of the homeless …
- In 2013, on his seventy-seventh birthday, he invited homeless people to his residence for breakfast to listen to their concerns and what the Church could do for them. The homeless even brought their dogs!
- The following year, again on his birthday, he bought four hundred sleeping bags for those living on the streets around the Vatican.
- Also in 2014, Pope Francis ordered showers to be built for the homeless in St. Peter’s Square, as well as a barbershop that would be open on a weekly basis. In 2015, he opened a homeless shelter near St. Peter’s Basilica. Joey, a homeless man, said this: “Everyone else spits on the homeless. Not here!”
- In the very hot Roman summer of 2016, he treated the homeless to an outing to the beach and bought them pizza on the way back.
- More recently, he has opened a free laundromat (2017) and a free medical center (2018) for the poor and homeless near the Vatican.
- He has also given shelter in apartments in the Vatican to refugees forced to flee war-torn regions such as Syria and Iraq.
I find all these actions inspirational and a further invitation to address the long-term solutions.