RELIGION

A Homeless Man, Willy Herteller, Was Buried At A Vatican Cemetery Usually Reserved For Bishops

02/27/2015 01:52 pm ET
TIZIANA FABI via Getty Images

A homeless man who used to roam the streets around St. Peter’s Basilica has found his final resting place among bishops.

Willy Herteller, an 80-year-old Flemish man, died on a cold December night last year. According to the Holy See’s press office, Herteller has been interred in the Teutonic Cemetery, a medieval German burial plot inside Vatican City that is usually reserved for clergy and aristocrats.

Pope Francis wasn’t involved in Herteller’s funeral arrangements, Crux has learned. But the decision dovetails with his emphasis on social justice and welcoming the marginalized.

Vatican Radio reports that Herteller was a “familiar face” to people in Vatican City, and that some clergy members would bring him food.

"For over 25 years he attended the 7:00 Mass,” said Father Bruno Silvestrini, pastor of the Church of Saint Anne in the Vatican. "He was very, very open and had made many friends. He spoke a lot with young people, he spoke to them of the Lord, he spoke of the Pope, he would invite them to the celebration of the Eucharist.”

Church officials had reportedly tried to help Herteller find a permanent place to live, but the man eventually ended up back on the street.

Herteller died on December 12 at a local hospital, apparently due to the cold. His body remained unclaimed in the morgue until the Italian Monsignor Americo Ciani noticed Herteller’s absence and tracked him down.

The man’s funeral was paid for by an anonymous German-speaking family. He was buried on January 9.

Pope Francis has paid special attention to the needy during his papacy, saying that he wants a “poor church, for the poor.”

He’s instructed his chief alms-giver, Monsignor Konrad Krajewski, to provide charity with “a lot of imagination.” Since then, Krajewski has distributed sleeping bags, given away umbrellas, and built public showers and a barber shop near St. Peter’s Square.

In 2013, a Jesuit-run charity arranged for the funeral of another homeless person, Andrea Quintero. She was 28 years old when she was beaten to death at a train station. Her funeral was held at Rome's Church of the Gesu, the mother church of Pope Francis' Jesuit order.

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