PAPAL GESTURE OF MERCY FOR HOMELESS MOTHER AND NEWBORN
What an amazing story of mercy from Rome, from the Vatican actually – a heartwarming story during days which have seen frigid temperatures in Rome, especially overnight.
At 2 am Tuesday, one of the coldest nights Rome has seen in a very long time, a 36-year old Romanian homeless woman gave birth to a 7-pound baby girl in Pius XII Square, the small square adjacent St. Peter’s Square. She had been sleeping under the porticos on Via della Conciliazione when her labor pains began. A homeless companion called the police who happened to be patrolling at that time and the woman, Maria Claudia, gave birth at about 2 am. The two police who came to her aid – a man and a woman – took off their own coats in the very cold weather to place over the mother and newborn who was named Irene.
The policewoman who helped the Romanian woman was also named Maria. Mother and child were brought to nearby Santo Spirito hospital, just several hundred yards from St. Peter’s Square.
A big role was also played by Papal Almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski. He had tried to help Maria Claudia in the past but she had never wanted assistance- However, on Tuesday, having heard the story, he saw to it that Maria Claudia went to the hospital and he went to visit them. He later told Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See Press Office that mother and daughter are doing well.
Archbishop Konrad said that, though the mother refused offers of help in the past she was able to use the showers the Vatican has built for the homeless as well as other services that Pope Francis has placed at the disposition of the homeless in the vicinity of the Vatican.
Although the two police officers who came to help Maria Claudia had called for an ambulance, it arrived quickly but only after Maria Claudia had given birth on the cold sidewalk. Every evening there are dozens of homeless people under or near the colonnades of St. Peter’s Square and in the doorways of many of the Vatican buildings on Via della Conciliazione, including the Holy See Press Office.
While the homeless very often come at sunset and spend the night outdoors, most leave in the morning when offices open.
Archbishop Krajewski has become the most active ever of all papal almoners, those who distribute help to the poor, the needy, and the homeless. His work, especially with the homeless, has become a hallmark of Pope Francis’ papacy. The Pope has seen to it that showers were set up for the homeless just off of St. Peter’s Square. He also saw to it that barbers gave freely of their service one day a week for these same homeless people. In addition, last fall a dormitory was built several blocks from St. Peter’s Square that houses up to 34 homeless people a night – all the work of Pope Francis and his almoner, Polish Archbishop Konrad Krajewski.
And now for the happy ending to this story:
Archbishop Krajewski let Maria Claudia know that, in the name of the Pope, she and her daughter may stay for a year in the home for unwed mothers that is run by the sisters of Mother Teresa in the Primavalle neighborhood of Rome.
CHRISTIAN UNITY, MERCY, BAPTISM ARE FOCUS OF PAPAL CATECHESIS
Marie, a friend from Toronto who is in Rome for only a few days, had written to ask if I might get a ticket for this week’s general papal audience and asked if I could accompany her. I write about but rarely attend a general audience but felt this would be a wonderful experience and also quality time to spend with a friend.
It was a bitter cold morning outside but the lines for security went quite well, quickly and efficiently. Being in a much warmer Paul VI Hall was all we needed to bring a real smile to our faces. We got inside about 90 minutes before the audience but that kind of time passes quickly as you talk, watch people, listen to groups sing or watch groups wave flags, etc.
Before the Pope arrives, announcements are made in 8 languages about how the audience wil proceed, praying the Our Father at the end of the audience with the Pope, having rosaries and other religious goods blessed, etc. The final announcement was the one that broight joy to our hearts: at the end of the audience, whoever wished to go through the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica should follow the directives of the Jubilee volunteers!
Marie had earlier asked me how to go about this and I told her that reservations had to be made online or at the Visitor’s Office on Via della Conciliazione and that the starting point of the long walk to the basilica Holy Door was at Castel Sant’Angelo, Now, we could take a shortcut!
Announcements made, Pope Francis arrived about 10 am on the dot and strolled up the center aisle of the Paul VI Hall to reach the stage.
The Holy Father focused his attention on the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity that began, as is tradition, on January 18 an ends on the 25, feast of the conversion of St. Paul. The Pope told us that the theme for this special week was taken from the first letter of Saint Peter, “Called to proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord,” and he explained, with apparent delight, that this had been chosen by an ecumenical group in Latvia.
Francis said this week of prayer invites us to “reflect on, and bear witness to, our unity in Christ as God’s People. … all those who are baptized, reborn to new life in Christ, are brothers and sisters, despite, ‘our divisions’.”
Baptism was also a focus of the weekly catechesis. The Pope said, “baptism means rediscovering the source of mercy, which is a source of hope for all.” He said once – and then repeated it, looking up from his text – that “no one is excluded from God’s mercy.” Sharing this grace, “creates an unbreakable bond between us Christians” so that, “by virtue of Baptism, we can consider ourselves brothers.
More than anything, prayed the Pope, may the Lord, in this week of prayer, “help all Christians to grow in that unity that is greater than what divides us. .. Together, may we respond to his call to share with others, especially with the poor and forgotten of our world, the gift of divine mercy which we ourselves have received.”
POST AUDIENCE NOTES
After the audience, as Pope Francis was receiving a delegation of Muslims who invited him to visit the mosque of Rome, Marie and I made our way out to St. Peter’s Square and, following the indications of the Jubilee volunteers, climbed the broad steps to the atrium of the basilica and joined others to go through the Holy Door. This was, as you can imagine, a very special moment that became the prelude to a prayerful visit to this historical basilica built over the tomb of the first Pope, St. Peter, and to prayer time at the tomb of St. John Paul, the tomb of St. John XXII and to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.
The photo of the Holy Door as we approached it is not very good because we were not supposed to stop and take photos.
A bonus, on the way out, was a visit to the basilica’s nativity scene (I’ll post photos another day).
POPE FRANCIS TO DAVOS ECONOMIC FORUM: DON’T FORGET THE POOR
The Holy Father was asked to address the annual economic summit in Davos, Switzerland, but ecided to express his thoughts to members of this exclusive yearly gathering in the form of a message. His principaal appeal was to never forget vthe poor, reflecting what he tweeted yesterday: The Gospel calls us to be close to the poor and forgotten, and to give them real hope.
Click here to read full message: http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-to-world-economic-forum-do-not-forget-the-poo