Pope Francis invites 2,000 homeless, migrants to circus

Rony Roller Circus Credit Paolo Macorig via Flickr CC BY NC ND 20 CNA 1 14 16 Rony Roller Circus. | Paolo Macorig via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

On Thursday afternoon the office for papal charities offered a unique charity event for Rome's marginalized: an entire circus organized especially for them.

The poor, homeless, refugees and a group of prisoners were treated to the special entertainment, which was offered to them free of charge at the Rony Roller Circus. The company had made all of its 2,000 seats available for the occasion.

An initiative of the Office of the Papal Almoner, headed by Bishop Konrad Krajewski, the event was announced in a Jan. 14 communique from the office.

The opening act of the show was a song written by a Spanish singer-songwriter who used to be homeless himself, and who dedicated the song to Pope Francis and wrote it to be "an opening prayer and expression of gratitude to the Holy Father for this new act of closeness to each one of them."

In one of his general audience addresses last January, Pope Francis said that those who put on circus shows "are creators of beauty."

In light of the Pope's comments, the Almoner's Office said that Thursday's "gift," offered by circus artists "who with perseverance, commitment and many sacrifices are able to create and give beauty to themselves and to others," is also a source of renewal for the most needy.

"(It is) an encouragement to overcome the harshness and difficulties of life which many times seem too great and insurmountable."

The communique also noted that medical personnel from the Vatican Health Services would be on site, and would give free treatment to any of the attendees who might need it. A small snack was also provided after the event.

In addition to the circus announcement, the Holy See Press office also made known the identity of the second family of refugees being hosted by the Vatican, assisted by St. Peter's basilica.

A Jan. 14 communique from the Vatican announced that St. Peter's has provided an apartment for an Eritrean family, consisting of a mother and her five children. While three of the children are already in Italy, the other two are still in an Ethiopian refugee camp.

They are expected to arrive in the coming weeks, the Vatican said, and explained that the youngest child, only a few months, was born in Norway, where the family had fled. After the child's birth, the family was sent back to Italy by the Dublin Convention, though the reasons for this were not given.

The family's presence is a response to Pope Francis' Sept. 6, 2015 appeal for all European parishes, religious communities, monasteries and shrines to house one refugee family.

At the time, the Pope said the two Vatican parishes – St. Peter's Basilica and St. Anne's parish – would also be hosting one family each.

The family hosted by St. Anne's parish is a Christian Syrian family, consisting of the parents and two children.

They fled from the Syrian capital of Damascus, and are now living in a Vatican-owned apartment just outside the Vatican walls. They arrived in Italy the same day Pope Francis made his appeal.

Pope Francis greeted the Syrian family himself just before he set off for his 10-day trip to Cuba and the United States in September.

Both of the Vatican's parishes have been assisted in welcoming the families by the Papal Almoner, Bishop Konrad Krajewski, and the Sant'Egidio Community.

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