After recovering from COVID-19 himself, the pope’s point man for charity is encouraging people to not forget the poor and homeless as vaccination programs ramp up around the world.
The Vatican on Wednesday gave the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to 25 homeless people, while another 25 were scheduled to receive it on Thursday.
The initiative was made possible thanks to Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner.
Krajewski’s job is to do charity in the pope’s name, mostly for the people of Rome, but this role has expanded, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic, to include not only other Italian cities, but some of the world’s poorest countries.
During the crisis, he’s distributed thousands of pieces of protective equipment and dozens of respirators in Syria, Venezuela, and Brazil.
The fact that at last 50 homeless people will receive the vaccine “means that everything is possible in this world,” Krajewski told Crux.
The prelate also noted that measures are in place to guarantee that it’s the same people who receive the second dose.
“The poor are vaccinated just like every other person working in the Vatican,” he said, noting that close to half of Vatican personnel have received the vaccine thus far. “Maybe this will encourage others to vaccinate their poor, those who live in the streets, as they too, are part of our communities.”
The group of homeless people being vaccinated by the Vatican are those cared for regularly by the Sisters of Mercy, who run a house in the Vatican, as well as those staying in the Palazzo Migliore, a shelter the Vatican opened last year near St. Peter’s Square.
Placing the homeless on the list of those to be vaccinated by the Vatican was not easy, the prelate said, due to legal reasons. However, Krajewski said, “we have to lead by an example of love. Law is something that is of help, but our guide is the Gospel.”
The Polish cardinal is one of several high-ranking Vatican employees who tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began. In his case, he spent Christmas hospitalized due to complications from a pneumonia cause by COVID-19, but was released Jan. 1.
He told Crux that he’s feeling better, though he’s still suffering mild consequences from the virus, like exhaustion during the afternoon. Nevertheless, he admits that “receiving the warm welcome home like I did upon returning from the hospital, it was worth contracting the virus.”
“The homeless and poor gave me a welcome that a family rarely gives,” the cardinal said.
The poor and homeless in regular contact with Krajewski’s office – the almoner offers warm meals, hot showers, clean clothes and lodging whenever it’s possible – are not only receiving the vaccine from the Vatican, but have also been offered the possibility to be tested for the coronavirus three times a week.
When one tests positive, the almoner’s office sends them to quarantine in a Vatican-owned building.
In an interview that aired Jan. 10, Pope Francis spoke about getting the COVID-19 vaccine the next week, and urged others to do the same.
“I believe that ethically everyone should take the vaccine,” the Pope said in an interview with TV station Canale 5. “It is an ethical choice because you are gambling with your health, with your life, but you are also gambling with the lives of others.”
In December, he urged countries to make vaccines “available to everyone” during his Christmas message.
“I beg all those in charge of states, of companies, of international bodies … to promote cooperation and not competition and to seek a solution for everyone, vaccines for all, especially for the most vulnerable and needy in all regions of the globe,” the pope said during his traditional Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) message on Christmas day.
Also in December, as several Catholic bishops were giving contradictory information regarding the morality of the COVID-19 vaccine taking into consideration that some of them used cell lines originating from aborted fetuses for their research and testing, the Vatican released a document calling it “morally acceptable.”
The Vatican concluded that “it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses” in the research and production process when “ethically irreproachable” vaccines aren’t available to the public.
But it stressed that the “licit” uses of such vaccines “does not and should not in any way imply that there is a moral endorsement of the use of cell lines proceeding from aborted fetuses.”
In its statement, the Vatican explained that obtaining vaccines that do not pose an ethical dilemma is not always possible, because there are countries “where vaccines without ethical problems are not made available to physicians and patients” or where special storage or transport conditions make their distribution more difficult.
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