ROME — Pope Francis has given the poor and homeless of the city of Rome an unusual Christmas present: 4,000 free coronavirus tests.
The tests for the coronavirus were given to the Roman pontiff as a tribute from the Slovenian government and then “regifted” by the pope to Rome’s poor.
Given through the Apostolic Penitentiary, led by the pope’s almoner Cardinal Konrad Kajewski, the tests will be administered in collaboration with the Solidarity Medicine NGO and the San Gallicano Hospital and Physiotherapy Institutes (IFO) to guarantee homeless people access to a free diagnosis of possible coronavirus infections.
On Christmas Eve, Francis moved up the celebration of the traditional “Midnight Mass” to 7:30 p.m. in the presence of about two hundred faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica, in compliance with the government-mandated curfew to curb the spread of the disease.
During the celebration, the pope reflected on the true meaning of Christmas and the birth of the Child Jesus as a testimony of God’s love for humanity, of salvation, and of the very meaning of life.
Francis recalled that God chose to be born not in luxury or in pomp, but in misery, poverty, and rejection, without a decent accommodation.
In his homily, the pope quoted American poet Emily Dickinson, citing the second part of a short poem: “WHO has not found the heaven below, Will fail of it above. God’s residence is next to mine, His furniture is love.”