Pope Francis sent 15,000 ice-creams to prisoners to help them cool down during what has been one of the hottest summers on record in Italy.
The ice-creams were delivered to Rome’s two prisons – Regina Coeli in the centre of the city and Rebibbia on the outskirts – by the Vatican’s almoner, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski.
In a statement, the Vatican said the pope’s charities office “did not go on holiday” this summer. Instead, Vatican volunteers spent their time “continuing to devote themselves, among other things to two of the seven works of mercy: visiting prisoners and consoling the afflicted”.
The donation was among one of several “small evangelical gestures” made during the summer “to help and give hope to thousands of people in Rome’s prisons”, the statement added.
In June, about 20 inmates from Rebibbia prison met the pontiff before joining him on a visit to the Vatican Museums.
The Vatican’s charity office also took small groups of homeless people “to the sea or the lake … for an afternoon of relaxation and dinner in a pizzeria”.
In addition, the charity has provided free tests for Covid-19 and vaccinations to Rome’s homeless and those in poverty.
This summer has been one of the hottest on record in Italy, with Siracusa, a city in Sicily, logging a high of 48.8C (119.85F) in August, potentially the highest temperature ever recorded in Europe. Severe wildfires also swept through Italy’s southern regions and island of Sardinia, with the high temperatures and strong winds hampering efforts to contain them.
Krajewski, 57, was named almoner, a job the pope transformed into a hands-on charitable mission, in 2013. He has worked discreetly, for the most part, for the poor for years. However, in May 2019 he made headlines after climbing down a manhole and breaking a seal to restore electricity to a building in Rome where 250 homeless people were living.