VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis has taken his embrace of homeless people a step further by allowing a man who had slept rough in St Peter’s Square to be buried inside the Vatican.
Willy Herteleer, who is thought to have been a Belgian, had been well known for years around St Peter’s Square, sleeping rough and begging from passers-by.
The Flemish-speaker died last month at about the age of 80 and the Pope, who has made concern for the poor and disenfranchised a keynote of his papacy, consented to him being buried in the Teutonic Cemetery, in the shadow of St Peter’s Basilica.
The unusual request came from Amerigo Ciani, a monsignor, who had befriended the homeless man during church services and told the Pope about his death.
“Holy Father, we don’t know where to bury him,” Msgr Ciani said.
“Give him a dignified burial in the Vatican,” the pontiff replied, according to reports.
A Vatican insider said: “It is without doubt the first time that a homeless person has been buried within the walls of the Vatican.”