After his election, Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Konrad Krajewski as Almoner and told him: “You can sell your desk. You don’t need it. You need to get out of the Vatican. You need to go out and look for the poor.” Religion News Service has the story.
In a narrow alley a few kilometres from the centre of Rome, around 250 migrants gather at sunset. Half a dozen are playing cards and some kids are kicking a soccer ball. Others have already begun lining up for their evening meal in the informal refugee camp known as Via Cupa.
Most of these migrants have fled from Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Sudan, part of the wave of exiles who have landed on Italy’s shores in recent years, and they are a mix of Muslims and Christians.
Whatever their religion, they may be surprised to learn that their host tonight in this nondescript alleyway is going to be Pope Francis.
The Pontiff isn’t actually joining them for dinner, though he’d probably like to. Instead, he’s done the next best thing by sending the Vatican’s almoner, Archbishop Krajewski, a Polish cleric responsible for dispensing the Pope’s charity funds, to make sure no one misses out.
“They are hungry. We are bringing them food from Pope Francis,” the Archbishop tells Religion News Service. “These meals come directly from the Pope. They are his offering. Just like the gospel says.”
It’s 7pm on a Thursday evening in late September. Archbishop Krajewski has just pulled up in a large gray van with a small group of nuns and priests. They begin to unload heavy containers filled with steaming risotto, fresh fruit, and drinks for the men, women, and children who will soon bed down in the open alley for the night.
The Archbishop, 52, has spent most of his ecclesiastical life in Rome but he hardly comes across like a career Vatican official. This evening he is dressed in a plain black shirt and pants with a black vest, his collar open and the distinctive white neck band of a priest nowhere in sight.
While many in the Vatican have chafed at Francis’ penchant for upending age-old customs and privileges to focus on the poor, he seems to take to it with a holy passion.
Photo: At 7pm at least twice a week, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski pulls up in a large gray van and unloads heavy containers filled with food for those who sleep in the streets (RNS)