In his address to pilgrims gathered in a freezing St Peter's Square on Sunday, Pope Francis asked for prayers for all those living and dying on the streets at this time of year. The Pope's words came during his Angelus address after the Mass marking the feast of Jesus' baptism in the River Jordan. As Jesus came to be baptised, the Pope said, John the Baptist tries to stop him, saying he is the one who should be baptised by Jesus. But, the Pope continued, Jesus came down to earth to close the gap between God and man, to fulfill God's will and to show that God remains close to us, his children.
As Jesus was baptized, the voice of God was heard saying: "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" and a dove was seen as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. The Pope said that was the moment when Jesus began his public mission, in the style of a humble servant. All disciples of Christ, he said, must use that same missionary style, not shouting or scolding people, not with arrogance or imposition, but firmly and gently with the example of their own lives.
After the Angelus, the Holy Father spoke about the homeless and especially those who have died during the extreme cold weather. "May the Lord warm our hearts to be able to help those who live on the streets," he said.
The Pope's almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, told Vatican Radio yesterday that the three hostels run by the Vatican, close to St Peter's and to Termini train station, will remain open 24 hours a day while the cold weather continues. He said a number of cars have also been made available as a place to sleep for those who wish to remain on the streets, while special thermal sleeping bags and gloves are being provided to try to protect the homeless from the freezing temperatures.
An extreme cold snap across Europe has left more than 20 people dead. Southern Italy and several Greek Islands - which are currently home to thousands of refugees - have been blanketed in snow. In Italy, seven people sleeping on the street died. Two Iraqi refugees died in a forest in Bulgaria.
The St Vincent de Paul Society in England is distributing 12,000 Vinnie Packs to people living on the streets which include a warm hat, socks, gloves, toothbrush, toothpaste and other essentials. To sponsor some see: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/displayCharityCampaignPage.action?charityCampaignUrl=svpvinniepacks
Source: Vatican Radio/ICN