VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Sunday urged Romans to help the homeless in the Italian capital, after a spike in the number dying from the cold.
Speaking at his noon blessing, Francis told the story of Edwin, a 46-year-old Nigerian who died of exposure near St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday.
“His story joins those of others who have recently died in Rome in the same dramatic circumstances. Let us pray for Edwin,” Francis said.
The Sant’ Egidio charity group said Edwin was at least the fourth homeless person to die of the cold in the city this year and the 10th since November.
“Let us think of Edwin, let us think of what this 46-year-old man felt in the cold, ignored by all, abandoned, even by us. Let us pray for him,” the pope said.
Sant’ Egidio and other groups scour Rome streets to direct homeless to shelters, and give out blankets and food.
They have asked city authorities to open subway stations at night.
The Vatican and its related charities run facilities including night shelters, bathing places, soup kitchens, and a clinic.
The 84-year-old pope delivered the address while standing in the Vatican library despite a renewed flare-up of a sciatica condition that causes pain in his legs and forced him to miss three events on Sunday and Monday.
Francis had been scheduled to say a Mass on Sunday morning and a vespers service on Monday. Both require the main celebrant to stand for long periods. He also postponed his annual address to the diplomatic corps that was set for Monday.
It was the second time this month that he had to miss events because of the flare-up.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)