ROME (CNS) — Two cardinals, an archbishop and a dozen priests concelebrated a funeral Mass Jan. 25 for Roberto Molinari, a soccer player decades ago, who spent much of the past few years living on the streets near the Vatican.
According to Vatican News, the many people whom Molinari befriended and who tried to help him recently convinced him to move into a homeless shelter after he’d had numerous bouts of pneumonia. The 64-year-old died in a shelter by Rome’s main train station.
Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, presided over the funeral Mass at the Rome parish of St. Pius X; Cardinal George Pell, who lives near where Molinari would sleep, concelebrated, as did Archbishop Arthur Roche, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.
Also in attendance were: volunteers from Natale 365, which runs the shelter where he was staying; Italian state police from the station on the square where Molinari often slept; and members of the Community of Sant’Egidio, who run the Vatican’s newest homeless shelter and coordinate the distribution of food to the homeless in many areas of the city.
The funeral was celebrated the day after Pope Francis publicly mourned the death of Edwin, a Nigerian who had been sleeping near St. Peter’s Square, and whose death was attributed to Rome’s overnight cold temperatures.
“Let us think of what this man, 46 years old, felt in the cold, ignored by everyone, abandoned, even by us,” the pope said Jan. 24 after reciting the Angelus prayer. “Let us pray for him.”
Carlo Santoro, a member of the Sant’Egidio Community, noted — as Pope Francis did — that at least 10 homeless people had died in Rome in the past few months. “The number of dead is probably higher; these are just the ones we know about and whose funerals we organized.”
The economic problems exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic are increasing the number of homeless in the city, while the number of beds in shelters has declined because of the need to ensure social distancing.
In early January, the Rome diocesan Caritas and the Italian Red Cross said they had opened a testing center and temporary shelter where homeless people could be monitored for COVID-19 before being referred to a more permanent shelter.