Pope invites homeless for birthday breakfast

Pope Francis talks with three men Dec. 17 who live on the streets near the Vatican. For his 77th birthday, the pope celebrated morning Mass and had breakfast with the men.

CNS PHOTO | L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO VIA REUTERS

Pope Francis talks with three men Dec. 17 who live on the streets near the Vatican. For his 77th birthday, the pope celebrated morning Mass and had breakfast with the men.

December 23, 2013
CAROL GLATZ
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

As part of a low-key celebration of his 77th birthday, Pope Francis had breakfast with three people who live on the streets near the Vatican. A small dog, belonging to one of the homeless men, was also on the guest list.

The pope started the day with his usual morning Mass held in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae residence where he lives.

However, he requested that the Mass be attended by the residence staff "in order to create a particularly family atmosphere for the celebration," the Vatican press office said in a written statement Dec. 17.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, represented the world's cardinals at the Mass, and Archbishop Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, attended.

After the Mass, all those present sang Happy Birthday to the pope, the Vatican statement said. The pope then met with everyone, including three homeless men who were brought there by Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner.

Krajewski invited the first group of men he had found early that morning sleeping under the large portico in front of the Vatican press hall on the main boulevard in front of St. Peter's Square, according to the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.

"Would you like to come Pope Francis' birthday party?" he asked them, reported the paper.

The men, in their forties, were from Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic. They loaded their belongings in the archbishop's car; the dog rode in the middle.

When they got to the residence, they waited for the Mass to end, then greeted the pope. Together with Krajewski, they gave the pope a bouquet of sunflowers, because they always turn toward the sun like the Church turns toward its sun, Christ, the archbishop explained.

The pope invited the men to have breakfast with him in the residence dining room, where they talked and shared a few laughs.

One of the men told the pope, "It's worthwhile being a vagrant because you get to meet the pope," the paper said.

The pope was scheduled to carry out a normal workday, the Vatican said.