- (Photo: Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi)
In a generous act of kindness, Pope Francis gave 2,000 unsuspecting immigrants, who stay at a shelter within close proximity to the Vatican, practical Christmas gift packages that included a signed card, postal stamps, a pre-paid international calling card, and a free day-pass for Rome's metro.
The immigrants stay at the Dono di Maria home that was founded by Mother Teresa 25 years ago under Pope John Paul II's blessing. Many of them arrived in Rome with little to no means, after fleeing from regions in Africa afflicted by armed conflict or from poverty and human trafficking in Asia and Eastern Europe.
"The Pope is very familiar with our work here and understands the realities that people face ... the guests were very happy," said Sister Michelle, the superior of Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity in Rome, according to Catholic News Agency.
Many of them also have limited education and Italian language skills and were thankful for the opportunity to call their families during the holidays.
The effort was undertaken by Papal almoner Archbishop Konrad Krajewskim, who has been appointed to the Vatican to create a hands-on approach to charity along with shelter organizers who helped pass out the gifts.
Pope Francis has been known to carry out similar charitable acts, many of which remain out of the press.
In September, he defended immigrant rights and voiced his concern for the poor during a press conference, with a message aimed for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees which will be celebrated in January 2014 under the theme "Migrants and Refugees: Towards a better world."
"They are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more," Pope Francis said, according to Reuters.
In his message, he also urged countries to welcome and respect immigrants rather than treat them as "pawns on the chessboard of humanity."
"A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization, all typical of a throwaway culture, towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world," said Pope Francis.