Looking out over St Peter’s Square where icicles hung from usually bubbling fountains, Pope Francis prayed for the homeless.
The freeze in Rome, subzero temperatures in large parts of Europe and
heavy snowfalls in many areas in early January forced the closure of
roads and schools and were blamed for at least a dozen deaths.
“In these very cold days, I think and I invite you to think of the
people who live on the streets, struck by the cold and, many times, by
indifference,” Pope Francis told people in St Peter’s Square on January
“Unfortunately, some have not survived,” the Pope told people who had
bundled up against the midday chill to recite the Angelus prayer with
him. “Let us pray for them and ask the Lord to warm our hearts so that
we can help them.”
Because of the cold weather, the papal charities office instituted a
24-hour open-door policy at the shelters it runs with the Missionaries
of Charity for homeless men and homeless women.
Usually the shelters
open in the evening and close in the morning.
The Vatican has also distributed to some homeless thermal sleeping
bags that protect down to minus 20C (minus 4F).
Some Vatican vehicles,
their doors unlocked, were left at night outside the Vatican City’s high
walls, so homeless people could take turns going inside the cars to
Several homeless sleep outside, under Vatican porticoes.
Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner and point man for Pope
Francis’ aid to the homeless around the Vatican, was unavailable for
However, Italian media reported that he left a van and
another automobile from his office unlocked and parked outside the
Vatican over the weekend so the homeless could take turns using it for