ROME – On the same day that she had a private meeting with Pope Francis, Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi on Facebook endorsed a campaign to help the poor during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak launched by the Rome office of Catholic charitable organization Caritas Internationalis.

“With the coronavirus emergency Caritas Rome has found itself giving up an important sum on which it relied to help thousands of homeless, migrants and families in difficulty,” she said in her March 28 post, noting that the sum of money in question is amount collected from all the coins thrown daily into the city’s famed Trevi Fountain by tourists.

In 2005 the the City of Rome decided to donate the funds collected from the Trevi Fountain to Caritas given their charitable work with the city’s poor.

“With the city empty and without the many visitors we are used to, even that sum has failed,” Raggi said, noting that last year the coins collected amounted to a whopping total of 1,400,000 euros ($1,550,000.)

“This is one of the many collateral effects of the emergency,” Raggi said, urging donors to support the Caritas “I Want To, But I Can’t” fundraiser, which is raising money to allow Caritas to convert overnight shelters into a 24-hour service offering the poor and needy meals, while also running a food distribution service.

Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the Papal Almoner responsible for distributing charity on behalf of the pope, recently spoke of the great need the homeless find themselves in, since the soup kitchens and restaurants where they usually go for meals and handouts are all closed.

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In her post, Raggi thanked Director of Caritas Rome Father Benoni Ambarus, “who, like so many in the city, continues to commit himself with dedication to those most in need. Together, as a community, we will do it.”

Pope Francis met with Raggi March 28 for a private meeting at the Vatican. Though no formal communique was issued about the encounter, it is likely the Caritas campaign was mentioned.

A day prior, Raggi had praised Pope Francis’s virtually unprecedented livestreamed prayer service March 27 for the end of the COVID-19 coronavirus, during which Pope Francis said the coronavirus outbreak is a time when “We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other.”

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He also gave the traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing, “to the city and to the world,” which is typically only given at Christmas and Easter, and which offers those who receive it a plenary indulgence, meaning the full pardon of the temporal consequences of sin.

In a Tweet sent after the encounter, Raggi said: “The words of Pope Francis are a balm for all of us in this moment of suffering. Rome unites to his prayer. Let us row together in this storm because no one is saved alone.”

On Monday Pope Francis met also with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte for a private audience at the Vatican.

Both Francis and the Italian bishops have urged citizens to adhere to the Italian government’s tight restrictions during the coronavirus lockdown.

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