RELIGION
09/24/2015 12:22 pm ET Updated Jan 15, 2017

Pope Francis Skips Lunch With Politicians To Be With Homeless In Washington, D.C.

“I want to be very clear. We can’t find any social or moral justification, no justification whatsoever for lack of housing."

Pope Francis stepped away from the pomp and pageantry of Capitol Hill to be with the poor and homeless on Thursday.

Passing on the opportunity to dine with politicians after addressing Congress this morning, Francis instead said a prayer blessing a meal for homeless clients of St. Maria's Meals, a food program run by Catholic Charities in Washington, D.C.

Pope Francis extending a blessing to a @ccadw client! #WalkwithFrancis #PopeInDC

A photo posted by Archdiocese of Washington (@washarchdiocese) on

Just before the meal, Francis drew a powerful comparison between the plight of the homeless and the Christmas story about Jesus’ birth in a stable.  

“The son of God knew what it was to be a homeless person,” Francis said, during a speech at nearby St. Patrick's Catholic Church. “What it was to start life without a roof over his head.”

“I want to be very clear. We can’t find any social or moral justification,  no justification whatsoever for lack of housing,” he continued. “We know that Jesus wanted to show solidarity with every person. He wanted everyone to experience his companionship, his help and his love. He identified with all those who suffer, who weep, who suffer any kind of injustice. He tells us this clearly, ‘I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.’"

Pope Francis is working the crowd at @ccadw! #WalkwithFrancis #PopeInDC

A photo posted by Archdiocese of Washington (@washarchdiocese) on

The St. Maria’s Meals program is a familiar sight on G street in D.C. Every Wednesday, volunteers set up tents on the sidewalk outside the Catholic Charities building and dish out hot meals to about 300 people in need. 

For this week's meal, organizers shut down an entire city block to accommodate the crowd. Chefs were slated to prepare chicken and pasta dishes, along with homemade desserts. Monsignor John Enzler, CEO of Catholic Charities in D.C. told WBAL-TV they were aiming for dishes that are "easy to serve, but very healthy, very nutritious.”

The symbolic move was evidence of Francis' desire to reach out to the margins and care for the poor. Under his watch, the Vatican opened new shower facilities in St. Peter's Square where people can get free haircuts and a shave. The Vatican is also building a homeless shelter in Rome that can serve 30 people at a time. 

In March, the pope's alsmgiver, who is in charge of doing charitable works on the pope's behalf, invited a group of homeless people for a private tour of the Sistine Chapel and a dinner at the Vatican museums. Pope Francis stopped by to pay the group a surprise visit, greeting each homeless man and woman individually.

The visit to Catholic Charities and to St. Patrick's Catholic Church was the last stop on Francis' itinerary in Washington, D.C. At 4 p.m., he will board a plane at Joint Base Andrews and fly to New York City, where he will address the United Nations General Assembly, participate in an interfaith service at the 9/11 memorial, visit with Catholic school students and immigrants in East Harlem, and lead Mass at Madison Square Garden.

 

  • Goodbye Pope Francis!
    Pope Francis looks out the window of his plane before departing Philadelphia on September 27, 2015 at the end of his six-day
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    Pope Francis looks out the window of his plane before departing Philadelphia on September 27, 2015 at the end of his six-day visit to the US. 
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    People pray during a mass celebrated by Pope Francis.
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    A family watches a Mass on a large screen with Pope Francis in downtown Philadelphia.
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    A family prays as they watch a Mass on a large screen.
  • A family watches a Mass on a large screen with Pope Francis in downtown Philadelphia.
    ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS via Getty Images
    A family watches a Mass on a large screen with Pope Francis in downtown Philadelphia.
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    Catholic devotees sing as they watch Pope Francis' Mass.
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    Women pray as they watch the Mass.
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     A U.S. Army serviceman receives communion during a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
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    Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli (C) walks to receive communion.
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    Catholic devotees watch a Mass on a large screen with Pope Francis in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 27, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)
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    A woman does the sign of the cross as she take part in a Mass with Pope Francis in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 27, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)
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    People pray during a mass celebrated by Pope Francis for the World Meeting of Families on Benjamin Franklin Parkway September 27, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Pope Francis is in the United State for the last of 6 days during his first trip as the leader of the Catholic Church. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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    Priests offer the crowd communion at Mass along Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Sept. 27, 2015.
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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 27: Pope Francis celebrates mass during the World Meeting of Families on September 27, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 
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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 27: Pope Francis delivers the homily as he celebrates mass at the World Meeting of Families at Benjamin Franklin Parkway on September 27, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 
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    Pope Francis celebrates Mass at Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 27, 2015. 
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    Chalices for communion are set during a mass celebrated by Pope Francis at Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 27, 2015. 
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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 27: Pope Francis greets corrections officers during a visit to the Curran-Fromhold Correction Facility September 27, 015 in in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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  • PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 26: Pope Francis attends the Festival of Families along Benjamin Franklin Parkway on September 2
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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 26: Pope Francis attends the Festival of Families along Benjamin Franklin Parkway on September 26, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Pope Francis wraps up his trip to the United States with two days in Philadelphia, attending the Festival of Families and meeting with prisoners at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility. (Photo by Eric Thayer-Pool/Getty Images)
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    Pope Francis arrives for the Festival of Families in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 26, 2015. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
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