As millions around the world enjoy summer vacations, Pope Francis is providing a beach escape for those who cannot afford them.
With financial assistance from Pope Francis, a Rome parish led 50 homeless and poor people on a pilgrimage to see the Shroud of Turin on Thursday and has provided the money needed for another Rome parish to do the same a week later.
Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, said the pope supported the pilgrimages particularly as part of the preparation for his own trip to Turin June 21-22 to venerate the shroud, which has been on public display since late April.
While enjoying a private visit to the Sistine Chapel, a group of VIP guests -- homeless people who live around the Vatican -- were surprised by a visit from Pope Francis.
The 150 visitors had just reached the Sistine Chapel at about 5 p.m. Thursday when Pope Francis walked through the door.
"Welcome," the pope said. "This is everyone's house, this is your home. The doors are always open for all."
The papal almoner, an archbishop who distributes charitable aid from Pope Francis, planned a special afternoon for about 150 homeless people: a walk through the Vatican Gardens, a visit to the Vatican Museums, private time in the Sistine Chapel and dinner in the museums' cafeteria.
Pope Francis marked his 78th birthday by giving hundreds of sleeping bags to the homeless in Rome, Vatican officials said Thursday.
Just one month after announcing plans to build showers for the homeless in St. Peter's Square, the pope called for 400 sleeping bags with the papal ensign to be distributed to people living on the streets.
The service will require volunteers and donations of soap, towels and clean underwear. "We have to be evangelical, but intelligent, too."
The "Francis revolution" continued in January with personnel shuffles, policy signals and gestures reinforcing the pope's vision of a more merciful church.
To celebrate his 77th birthday, Pope Francis celebrated Mass and had breakfast with three people who live on the streets near the Vatican.