By Melissa Butz
A parish in the heart of Rome is open 24 hours a day, for the people who need it most: the homeless.
As part of an initiative launched by the Spanish NGO “Messengers of Peace,” the church recently received new simple beds, so that 90 people do not have to sleep outside during the winter nights.
“Thanks to this, we see how society is not sick, on the contrary,” explained Father Angel, the organization’s founder. “It is healthy, helpful and rich in values. Call it what you want, but people will always be supportive. Ask, open your arms and receive. This place is an example of that.”
The famous Spanish singer Raphael, who sold more than 50 million records throughout his successful career, traveled to Rome to sponsor both the opening of the room and this humanitarian organization.
“This is good charity and hopefully it will be very successful and multiply, like bread and fish,” he said. “The important thing is the people themselves support these projects, be they famous or not. It does not matter. Before God and all important things, it doesn’t matter if a person is famous or not.”
A few hours prior to the opening, both Fr. Angel and Raphael attended Mass at Casa Santa Marta with Pope Francis. They explained the project to the Holy Father and gave him a very special gift.
“We met in Buenos Aires a while ago, but this time, knowing that he is very fond of tango, I brought him my personal tango album. It was a beautiful moment,” said Raphael.
“The pope wrote us a beautiful letter when we opened this church to the homeless. He told us he was glad there were churches open 24 hours because some look more like museums they have been closed for so long,” said Fr. Angel.
In the Eternal City, this church is the opposite, representing what Pope Francis has so often asked: for churches to be a field hospital for those who suffer the wounds of this world in their soul and on their body.