This Sunday, 19 November marks the first World Day of the Poor, which Pope Francis called for at the conclusion of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Ahead of this special day, Pope Francis made a surprise visit on Thursday afternoon to a small “field hospital” set up in front of Saint Peter’s Square to provide medical care for Rome’s poor.
During the short visit, accompanied by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation, the Pope greeted volunteers and poor people waiting to receive care. The tent hospital is run by the Italian Red Cross offers and offers free medical visits for the poor and needy throughout the week from 9:00am to 4:00pm.
On Sunday morning in Saint Peter’s Basilica, some four thousand poor and needy people, accompanied by volunteers from Italy, France, Spain, Brussels, Luxembourg and Poland will take part in a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis. Following the Mass, visitors will be invited to lunch in the adjacent Paul VI Hall as well as some of the Catholic colleges, seminaries and charitable organisations in the area.
Those dining in the Paul VI Hall will be served a meal of gnocchi with tomato sauce and veal stew with vegetables, plus tiramisu and coffee for desert, all prepared by papal chef Sergio Dussin from Bassano del Grappa in Italy’s northern Veneto region.
The Vatican police band and a children’s choir will provide background music for the festive lunch, which has been organised in collaboration with a number of local charity organisations and parishes.
On the previous evening, Saturday 18 November, there will also be a prayer vigil in the ancient Rome Basilica of Saint Lawrence to remember volunteers all over the world who offer their services in support of the poor and marginalized.
Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of the Poor can be read on www.catholicbishops.ie.