VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As workers were getting
St. Peter's Square ready for this year's Nativity scene, nearby a large
mobile health care facility was set up and running to serve the city's
homeless and poor.
About two dozen men and a few women were sitting or standing in a
spacious area, quietly waiting their turn or filling out basic paperwork
before being called for their free checkups.
Doctors volunteering from Rome hospitals or other health clinics and
nurses from the Italian Red Cross took shifts running laboratory tests
and seeing patients from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day.
For the second time, the Pontifical Council for Promoting New
Evangelization organized the free health care initiative in conjunction
with Pope Francis' celebration of the World Day of the Poor, which was
to be celebrated Nov. 18. But this year, the clinic offered extended
morning and evening hours. Anyone in need could find general and
specialist care, including cardiology, dermatology, gynecology and
Roberta Capparella, a Red Cross nurse, told reporters Nov. 13 that
she and many others took part in last year's initiative and found it
She said they were so happy to hear Pope Francis wanted to offer the
free health services again this year that they jumped at the chance to
"Just by being here all day, volunteers realize that they aren't
giving of themselves, but that they are receiving" from the people they
serve, she said.
The World Day of the Poor -- marked each year on the 33rd Sunday of
ordinary time -- focuses this year on a verse from Psalm 34, "This poor
one cried out and the Lord heard."
The commemoration and the period of reflection and action preceding
it are meant to give Christians a chance to follow Christ's example and
concretely share a moment of love, hope and respect together with those
in need in one's community, the pope said in his message for the day,
published in mid-June.
Local churches, associations and institutions were again asked to
create initiatives that foster moments of real encounter, friendship,
solidarity and concrete assistance.
The pope was to celebrate Mass in St. Peter's Basilica Nov. 18 with
the poor and volunteers, and he was scheduled to have lunch afterward
with about 3,000 people in the Vatican's Paul VI audience hall. Other
volunteer groups and schools were also set to offer free meals
throughout the city.