LIFESTYLE

Pope Francis Gives Christmas Presents To 2,000 Immigrants, Sends Message To World's 'Cartoneros'

  • Pope Francis during a private audience qith Grenadines Prime Minister, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013.

    Pope Francis during a private audience qith Grenadines Prime Minister, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013.  (AP)

  • Pope Francis in St. Peter Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013.

    Pope Francis in St. Peter Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013.  (ap)

Pope Francis didn't have to travel far to find children in need.

Two thousand unsuspecting immigrants at a shelter just a few steps away from the Vatican received Christmas presents from the Pope last weekend, according to the Catholic News Agency.

But the gifts didn't include toys or candy canes. Instead, every immigrant received a practical gift package that included a Christmas card signed by Pope Francis, postal stamps, a pre-paid international calling card, and a free day-pass for Rome's metro.

Sister Michelle, the superior of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Rome, told CNA the immigrants were "very happy" with their gifts and thankful for the opportunity to call and write their loved ones.

The Dono di Maria shelter has been in service for 25 years and was founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta to serve immigrants who lack education, Italian language skills and job opportunities.

Pope Francis also released an amateur video praising the world's "cartoneros" — name given in Argentina, his hometown, to the people who make a living picking through garbage to find recyclable and reusable goods. He says their work is dignified and good for the environment.

Francis recorded the video Dec. 5 while meeting with members of the Excluded Workers' Movement of Argentina, which released the video this week at an annual meeting of trash recyclers.

On the video, Francis denounces today's "throw-away culture" and says that food that is tossed each day would be enough to feed all the hungry people in the world.

Francis has a long relationship with Argentina's "cartoneros" — literally "cardboard people." In his years as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he would celebrate Mass for them and invite them on stage during World Youth Day in July.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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