Taking it to the street: the pope’s birthday party guest list

VATICAN CITY — We know from the pope’s sister that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio would skip family dinners and picnics to spend special days, like Sundays and holidays, with the poor.

Pope Francis celebrates birthday with men who live on streets near Vatican

Pope Francis talks with three men Dec. 17 who live on the streets near the Vatican. The pope had breakfast with the men as part of a low-key celebration of his 77th birthday. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Now as Pope Francis, he started his own special day — his 77th birthday — having breakfast with some of Rome’s homeless.

Since he is no longer really free to go as he pleases to those in need, he had to send his almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, out to find them.

According to the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, the archbishop went out early this morning, and didn’t have to go far to find people living on the street.

The first group he found were three men in their forties, who were sleeping under the large portico in front of the Vatican press hall on the main boulevard in front of St. Peter’s Square.

“Would you like to come to Pope Francis’ birthday party?” the Polish archbishop asked the men, who were from Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

When they realized the invitation was for real, they immediately packed their belongings into the archbishop’s car, including their faithful dog, who rode in the middle, the paper said.

The four (counting the dog) got to greet the pope right after his morning Mass and, together with the archbishop, gave the pope a bouquet of sunflowers because the flowers always turn to the sun just as the church always 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 had a few laughs.

Apparently one of the men joked with the pope that it was “worthwhile being a vagrant because you get to meet the pope.”

Today the pope gave a clue in a letter he sent today commemorating the 800th anniversary of the death of St. John of Matha (whose feast day is today) as to why he always wants to be close to the poor.

The pope told the religious order the saint founded that “I like to think that you, in your prayers, put the Bishop of Rome together with the poor.” Being among the poor, he said, “reminds me that I cannot forget about them just like Jesus never forgot them.”

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