Vatican City (AP) – Sick Pope Francis, who is making limited public appearances this week due to constant pain, drew attention to the plight of homeless people over the winter, including a Nigerian who froze to death near the Vatican.
On Sunday, Francis asked for prayers for a 46-year-old man named Edwin, who he said was “ignored by everyone, abandoned, even by us.” The pontiff said on January 20, “a dead Nigerian homeless man was found a few meters from St. Peter’s Square due to the cold.”
A day after the Vatican said that 84-year-old Francis was again suffering from sciatica, an inflammation of the nerves that could affect the lower back and legs, the pope missed a planned liturgy at St. Peter’s Basilica. But he appeared in the library of the Apostolic Palace to give his blessing and offer remarks on the gospel and the plight of those who have no home.
Edwin’s case “adds to the cases of so many other homeless people who recently died in Rome under the same dramatic circumstances,” Francis said. “Let’s pray for Edwin.”
Francis often uses his papacy to try to draw attention to the problems of those living on the edge of life, including newly arrived migrants and the homeless. Sometimes his official alms giver handed out sleeping bags to those living on the streets near the Vatican.
This is the second time in recent weeks that Francis has been horrified by what the Vatican says is sciatica, forcing him to miss events. The latest match prompted him to postpone his annual speech at the beginning of the year to diplomats accredited to the Holy See, which was set for Monday. Later that day, Francis was to be taken to a basilica in Rome to pray with other Christian leaders, but the event would continue without him.
The same painful condition saw him skip the New Year’s liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica.
A six-day pilgrimage to Iraq is still available in early March, a trip Francis hopes to take despite the country’s pandemic and violence, including a suicide attack last week that killed 32 people in Baghdad.