ROME, ITALY - Pope Francis hosted 1,500 poor and needy people for lunch on Sunday at the Vatican. Earlier he celebrated Mass in Saint Peter's Basilica to mark World Day of the Poor.
Some 150 round tables were prepared in the large Vatican hall where the pope normally holds his indoor audiences with the faithful during the winter months. There he hosted lunch for poor people, including migrants and about 50 volunteers who work with the needy.
Before lunch was served, the pope thanked all those present and asked God to bless them and their families. The menu for all the pope's guests was lasagne, chicken with cream of mushroom sauce and potatoes, dessert, fruit and espresso coffee. Elsewhere in Rome, another 1,500 needy people were also served lunch and in many parishes.
Earlier on Sunday the pope celebrated a special mass in Saint Peter's Basilica to raise awareness about the poor in the world. The mass was attended by the poor and the volunteers who later lunched with the pope. During the service, Pope Francis said the poor "facilitate our access to heaven" and described them as "the treasure of the Church."
Francis encouraged the faithful not to feel annoyed when the poor knock on our doors, but to welcome them and help them as much as possible.
"How many elderly, babies, disabled and poor people are considered useless", the pope said in his homily adding that "we go our way in haste, without worrying that gaps are increasing, that the greed of a few is adding to the poverty of many others."
The pope told the faithful to ask themselves the questions: "Do I help someone who has nothing to give me in return? Do I, as Christian, have at least one poor person as a friend?"
The pope, who chose the name Francis after the saint of the poor, has focused his attention on the world's marginalized since the start of his papacy.