Pope Francis Kicks Off World Day of the Poor

Pope Francis, left, watches the unveiling of Timothy P. Schmalz’s new sculpture, ‘Angels Unawares’, on the theme of refugees and migration, in St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, on Sept. 29, 2019. (Vincenzo Pinto/Pool Photo via AP)

To get an idea of what Pope Francis’ pontificate is all about, one need only drop by Saint Peter’s square this week.

Within the embrace of the world-famous colonnade lies a 12-foot-tall bronze statue of immigrants of all genders, races and cultural backgrounds and a medical facility for the needy that Pope Francis inaugurated during the week leading up to the third annual World Day of the Poor (Nov. 17).

“The marginalization painfully experienced by millions of persons cannot go on for long. Their cry is growing louder and embraces the entire earth,” Francis wrote in his message for World Day of the Poor, which was created by the pope in 2016 at the end of the Jubilee of Mercy.

“The option for those who are least, those whom society discards is a priority that Christ’s followers are called to pursue, so as not to impugn the Church’s credibility and to give real hope to many of our vulnerable brothers and sisters,” he said.

St. Peter’s Square these days is a snapshot of Francis’ agenda of a “poor Church for the poor,” as homeless and impoverished people find medical help and a welcoming and warm respite in the cold weather leading up to the holidays.

“Disadvantaged people, who are anxious at coming in at first, feel welcomed once they come inside,” said Roberta Capparella, a volunteer from the Red Cross who coordinates the doctors and nurses offering their time in support of the papal initiative.

This is the third year that Capparella has been volunteering at the medical facility in the middle of one of Rome’s most visited landmarks. With her short haircut and standard blue vest, Capparella exudes an air of practicality, which she displays in the quick way she offers council here, corrects something there and makes sure things function overall.

“There is always more to learn, because every year there are things that can be improved,” she told Religion News Service (Nov.12) in the brief moments she could spare.

This year the medical facility is offering even more services than in previous years. People coming in can take advantage of cardiology, vision, dermatology, rheumatology, gynecology, virology, diabetology, echography and pedology check-ups — all for free.

There are between 100 and 150 people coming into the clinic every day, and word is spreading around town of the pope’s gift to the city’s poor, Capparella said. Each person, she said, usually takes advantage of four or five of the services the facility offers, including vaccinations.

The people who come in have different backgrounds, she explained, from homeless people to those who are struggling financially or hail from other countries and can’t afford Italy’s mixed private and public healthcare system.

“The pope gave us the opportunity to prescribe medicines here,” Capparella explained, “which can be very expensive.”

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Source: Religion News Service