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An Extraordinary Gesture for an Extraordinary Holy Year



Pope Francis greets homeless during his general audience at St Peter's square at the Vatican. Tango enthusiasts gather today in St Peter's square to celebrate Pope Francis 78th birthday by dancing a giant tango at the end of the audience. AFP PHOTO / ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP PHOTO / ALBERTO PIZZOLI

Diane Montagna - published on 05/03/16

Thousands of homeless to celebrate Jubilee Day with Pope Francis

VATICAN CITY — Thousands of homeless people from all over Europe will travel on pilgrimage to Rome this November to meet Pope Francis, one of the final events of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.

The pope will receive the homeless in special audience on Friday, November 11, the feast of St. Martin of Tours, a saint famous for having used his military sword to give half of his cloak to a beggar clothed only in rags in winter. Still a pagan soldier of the Roman Empire, St. Martin’s conversion began with that encounter.

St. Martin is regarded by many as a spiritual bridge across Europe. Born in Hungary (316 or 336 AD), he spent much of his childhood in Italy, then lived much of his adult life in France, as a defender against the Arian heresy, as a hermit, and then as Bishop of Tours. His shrine in France has become a famous stopping-point for pilgrims on the road to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

Pope Francis often gives a medal depicting St. Martin of Tour’s gesture to heads of state, to remind them of the need to promote the rights and dignity of the poor.

The Jubilee celebration for the homeless, to be held November 11-13, will include visits around the city of Rome as well a prayer vigil with Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, archbishop of Lyon, France.

On Sunday, November 13, participants in the Jubilee Day for the homeless, will attend a Holy Mass celebrated by Pope Francis.

“This time of pilgrimage and the opportunity to meet Pope Francis will give people from the most vulnerable sectors of society, who are often treated as outcasts, a chance to discover that their place is in the heart of God and in the heart of the Church,” a statement released by the event organizers, the “Fratello” Association, read.

The “Fratello” [Brother] Association began in October 2014, when 150 street people travelled to Rome with their escorts on a pilgrimage that ended with a brief meeting with Pope Francis.

Associations across Europe that work with the homeless are invited to join in the Year of Mercy pilgrimage.

Diane Montagna is Rome correspondentfor Aleteia’s English edition.

Divine MercyPope FrancisPoverty
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