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20170112T1110 7240 CNS VATICAN MCDONALDS 800A worker crosses the street with her bike outside the newly opened McDonald's near the Vatican Jan. 12. The McDonald's will collaborate with Italian aid organization, "Medicinia Solidale," and the papal almoner's office to help feed the poor and homeless around the Vatican. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While the controversial opening of a McDonald's near the Vatican may not have all local residents singing, "I'm lovin' it," the popular fast food chain is trying to do its part in the neighborhood by helping the poor and the hungry.

"Medicina Solidale" ("Solidarity Medicine") announced Jan. 12 that it is joining forces with McDonald's and the papal almoner's office, which gives the pope's charitable aid to the homeless around the Vatican, to distribute 1,000 meals to poor men and women who often find shelter in and around St. Peter's Basilica.

Starting Jan. 16, volunteers from the charitable organization will distribute a specially prepared menu for the poor; it includes a double cheeseburger, fresh apple slices and a bottle of water.

Lucia Ercoli, director of "Medicina Solidale," said that the organization plans to distribute 100 meals a week for 10 consecutive Mondays. The program, she added, is "the beginning of a dialogue" with McDonald's to expand in the future.

"It is truly a small drop in an ocean of things being done by so many other associations, by so many people who spend their time helping others," Ercoli said Jan. 12 in an interview with Vatican Radio.

In a statement announcing the deal, Ercoli noted that the fast food chain "quickly responded" to the proposal "to donate meals to those who live on the streets in the area of St. Peter's."

Noting her organization's longtime collaboration with the papal almoner in providing medical care for the homeless, Ercoli said the new agreement will ensure that the poor also are provided with some much-needed nutrition.

"With these meals, we'll make a significant leap in providing so many women and men who live on the street in this neighborhood the possibility of a meal that will guarantee a suitable intake of proteins and vitamins for them," she said.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.