The Holy See’s press office told reporters after the meeting that the pope spent about 20 minutes talking with visitors individually. He also blessed the group and asked for their prayers. “I need the prayers of people like you,” he said.
The tour was arranged by the pope’s chief alms-giver, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the same leader behind several other Vatican projects taken up under Francis to reach out to the homeless population of Rome. Under Krajewski’s direction, the Vatican has started offering free weekly haircuts and opened up showers in a space off St. Peter’s Square for anyone who needs them. The showers are open most days of the week.
In honor of Francis’ birthday last December, the Vatican distributed sleeping bags to the homeless who sleep near the square, as well.
The Vatican museums closed more than an hour early to ensure that the visitors would be able to tour the grounds undisturbed. Although reporters and photographers were not invited to accompany the Vatican’s guests, Catholic News Service notes that the group posed for a photo under “The Last Judgment” fresco in the chapel. Later, the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano released some photos of the tour.
CNS spoke to one of the Vatican’s visitors about the experience:
Mauro, who speaks Italian and serves a spokesman for a group of Poles who sleep near the Vatican press office, told Catholic News Service March 27 that his favorite part of the Vatican Museums was the vintage carriage and car collection.“I’m passionate about cars and what they have is great,” he said. “I had my picture taken there.”Mauro said he and his friends always see long lines of tourists waiting to get into the museums, so it was great to see what all the fuss was about. And they didn’t even have to wait in line or deal with a crowd; “it was just us,” he said.“It’s spectacular,” he said. “It’s beautiful.”