Date
19 November 2017
A volunteer (second from right) and some homeless people talk with a Swiss guard before touring the Vatican museums, including the Sistine Chapel. Photo: Reuters
A volunteer (second from right) and some homeless people talk with a Swiss guard before touring the Vatican museums, including the Sistine Chapel. Photo: Reuters

Pope tells homeless in Sistine Chapel: This is your house

Pope Francis made a surprise visit to 150 homeless people who were being taken on a special tour of the Sistine Chapel, Reuters reported.

Francis greeted the visitors Thursday in the chapel where he was elected pope.

They were being given a private viewing of its ceiling frescoes painted by Michelangelo more than 500 years ago.

“This is everyone’s house, it is your house,” a Vatican spokesman quoted Francis as saying.

No reporters or photographers were allowed.

Francis was known as “the slum bishop” in his native Buenos Aires for making frequent visits to shanty towns.

Since taking over as the head of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, he has made concern for the poor a central plank of his papacy.

The visitors toured and had dinner in the Vatican museums, which attract about six million people a year, each paying at least 16 euros (US$17). 

The Vatican said it was giving the 150 homeless, who usually frequent the area around St. Peter’s Basilica, a chance to admire the inside of buildings of which they usually see only the front steps.

The visit was organised by Bishop Konrad Krajewski, the pope’s almoner — the church officer in charge of charitable works — who started organising showers and shaves in St. Peter’s Square earlier this year for people who live rough.

Krajewski is also credited with distributing 300 umbrellas forgotten by tourists to the area’s homeless during a rainy spell in February.

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