Rome, Italy, Dec 18, 2013 / 11:33 am
Two thousand immigrants at a shelter near the Vatican received simple Christmas presents from Pope Francis on the evening of Dec. 14.
"The guests were very happy," said Sister Michelle, the superior of Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity in Rome.
Each practical gift package consisted of a small envelope containing a Christmas card signed by Pope Francis, postal stamps, a pre-paid international calling card, and a free day-pass for Rome's metro.
The gift packages were distributed at the Dono di Maria, the shelter operated by the Missionaries of Charity just a few steps from the Vatican.
In a Dec. 16 interview with CNA, Sr. Michelle said the immigrants received the presents with love and were thankful for the opportunity to call and write their loved ones during the Christmas season.
The Holy Father brought joy to their hearts, she said, as many have little or no education and no knowledge of Italian. They survive in Rome with the help of the Missionaries of Charity.
The city of Rome sees the arrival every day of new immigrants. Many come in total poverty, fleeing from regions in Africa plagued by armed conflict or from the scourge of poverty and human trafficking in Asia and Eastern Europe.
Sr. Michelle noted that concern for the poor is characteristic of this papacy. "The Pope is very familiar with our work here and understands the realities that people face," she said.
She added that Benedict XVI had also reached out to those in need through various initiatives, in ways that were never publicized by the Holy See's Press Office.
Archbishop Konrad Krajewski – who holds the office of papal almoner and is responsible for sending modest donations to those in need on behalf of the Holy Fahter – helped the sisters hand out the gifts. They were joined by other volunteers at the shelter.
The Dono di Maria home was founded 25 years ago by Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta with the blessing of Blessed John Paul II. Mother Teresa also founded a soup kitchen in Vatican City State dedicated to St. Martha, the patron saint of hospitality.
Pope Francis visited the Missionaries of Charity home on May 21 to personally congratulate the community on the 25th anniversary of its founding.