ROME – I-scream, you-scream, Pope Francis screamed… ‘gelato!’ on the feast of his patron saint, George, offering some 3,000 ice creams to homeless served in Caritas soup kitchens and shelters around Rome.
Every year the pope’s “onomastico,” or name-day, is celebrated as an official holiday in the Vatican. Under Francis, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the feast is that of St. George, since Jorge is the Spanish equivalent.
And with temperatures in Rome finally starting to warm up, Francis decided to cool things down for Monday’s feast, asking the papal almoner’s office to provide the gelato to the poor and needy served by Catholic charitable organization, Caritas.
The papal almoner is Polish Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, who can often be seen mingling with the poor around St. Peter’s Basilica.
However, the pope himself is also known to be a gelato lover, his favorite flavor being dolce de leche, according to the Vatican cookbook. An Argentine classic, dolce de leche is essentially the Latin American version of caramel, but richer.
In the past, other papal gelato favorites included classic Italian flavor ‘cassata Siciliana’ for retired pontiff Benedict XVI, which is made with chocolate, strawberry and mango ice cream. John Paul II, on the other hand, reportedly indulged in ‘marron glacé’ gelato from Rome’s Gelateria Giolitti, which is ice cream flavored with candied chestnuts.
Francis often makes similar gestures for Rome’s poor, whether it’s a trip to the circus, a tour of the Vatican museums or a pizza party lunch on his birthday.
In the past he has also taken homeless to the beach during the hot summer months, and with temperatures this year expected to exceed the burning weather of 2017, it’s possible another outing will take place in the coming months.