Pope Francis’ ambulance brings free flu shots and coronavirus tests to the homeless

PopeblessesambulanceCopyright Vatican Media Pope Francis blesses an ambulance entrusted to the Office of Papal Charities. | Vatican Media.

Pope Francis' charity brought free flu vaccines and coronavirus tests to homeless people living in a town outside Rome on Wednesday.

The Vatican ambulance carried the medical supplies to the small seaside town of Torvaianica, located outside the wider metropolitan area of Rome, about 45 miles south of the city center.

Despite heavy rain, health staff from the papal charity office administered the flu shots and COVID-19 tests to 35 people in the courtyard in front of the Blessed Virgin Mary Immaculate Parish, according to Vatican News.

Those who received the help were mostly immigrants from Argentina, Colombia, and Peru, who do not have access to regular medical services. 

Torvaianica is marked by poverty and homelessness, and some of the people who received help Dec. 2 engage in prostitution on the town's beachfront, Vatican News reported.

The local priest, Fr. Andrea Conocchia, said that this may have been the first time they had "received such concrete and effective attention on the part of the Church."

Despite the clouds and rain, he said that "it was a sunny day, because it was illuminated and warmed by the presence of friends who arrived in the Vatican ambulance."

"People are happy for this closeness, for this presence, attention and care," the priest added. "They were very excited."

"They pray for the Church. They ask for blessings for the pope. They are really very content and very happy" to receive help, he said.

In April, Pope Francis' almoner, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, sent money to a group of transgender prostitutes in Torvaianica who were facing homelessness and had asked for assistance from the local parish.

Krajewski sent money for them to cover their rent and bills until Italy's nationwide lockdown ended in May.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the papal charity office, led by Krajewski, has been helping the poor and homeless around Rome by handing out meals and protective gear such as face masks.

The office has also donated ventilators to hospitals in Italy, Brazil, and Spain.

In April, Krajewski wrote to cardinals, archbishops, bishops and other members of the Papal Chapel, which assists the pope during liturgical ceremonies, inviting them to make a financial offering to support those suffering during the pandemic. 

The cardinal told CNA that some officials had given the equivalent of a month's salary, while others had donated two months' worth of their earnings. 

He praised the "heartfelt response," which he said "exceeded all of our thoughts."

Some of the funds were given to the needy in Romania and ventilators were sent to Zambia, Krajewski said.

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