“Let us think about Edwin. Let us think of what this man, 46 years old, felt in the cold, ignored by all, abandoned, even by us. Let us pray for him.”
According to the news website RomaToday, Edwin was the fourth homeless person to die this year in Rome, where there are an estimated 8,000 homeless people. Many sleep along the edge of Bernini’s colonnade, the semi-circular columns enclosing St. Peter’s Square.
On the same day that Edwin’s body was discovered, the Vatican began vaccinating homeless people in its care against COVID-19.
An initial group of around 25 homeless people received the first dose of the vaccine on Jan. 20 in the atrium of the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican.
Those receiving the vaccine are permanently housed in the care and residence facilities of the Office of Papal Charities, the Vatican department offering charitable assistance to the poor on behalf of the pope.
Pope Francis gave the Angelus address via livestream in the library of the Apostolic Palace, where the prayer has taken place since a resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic in Italy.
He attended the event despite being forced to cancel three other public appearances on Sunday and Monday due to a resurgence of nerve pain that struck him at the end of 2020.
He did not appear to be in pain as he gave the address standing before a lectern and frequently improvising his remarks.
The pope reflected on Sunday’s Gospel reading, Mark 1:14-20, in which Jesus takes up the call to repentance first issued by St. John the Baptist. He said that Christ’s message contained two fundamental themes: time and conversion.
“The time of salvation is fulfilled because Jesus has arrived. However, salvation is not automatic; salvation is a gift of love and as such offered to human freedom,” he said, noting that to receive this gift we must be open to conversion.
“It means to change mentality -- this is conversion, to change mentality -- and to change life: to no longer follow the examples of the world but those of God, who is Jesus; to follow Jesus, as Jesus had done, and as Jesus taught us. It is a decisive change of view and attitude,” he said.
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He explained that an opposing force -- sin -- encourages us to affirm ourselves at the expense of others and God. This worldly mentality, he said, leads to deception and violence.
“This is the mentality of deceit that definitely has its origins in the father of deceit, the great pretender, the devil. He is the father of lies, as Jesus defines him,” he commented.
In contrast, Jesus invites us to recognize our need for God and his grace.
The 84-year-old pope said: “For each one of us the time in which we are able to receive redemption is brief: it is the duration of our life in this world. It is brief. Perhaps it seems long...”
He recalled giving the last rites to a “very good elderly man.”
“Before receiving the Eucharist and the Anointing of the Sick, he said this phrase to me: ‘My life has flown by,’ as if to say: I believed that it was eternal, but... ‘my life has flown by.’”