WASHINGTON - Pope Francis will arrive in Washington D.C. next week. While in town, he will meet with President Barack Obama and deliver a speech before Congress. He will also spend some time with some of D.C.’s most vulnerable and most in need.
For Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington and its St. Maria's Meals program, a typical Wednesday includes serving up dinner for about 250 people in need in Northwest D.C.
Many of the clients spend their nights on the streets or in shelters. They can come here and fill up with no questions asked.
“Well, if it were not here, we would be in trouble,” said one man we spoke with. “We wouldn't have food to eat, water or juice to drink.”
“It's really a blessing,” said another person.
And on this night, there was an extra special vibe because Pope Francis has chosen to visit this crowd during his time in the District. Organizers will shut down this block of G Street and host a lunch for the homeless next Thursday.
“White table cloths, nice food being served, desserts being homemade for them – it’s going to be a nice night,” said Monsignor John Enzler, president and chief executive officer of Catholic Charities.
His Holiness is scheduled to be at the event for an hour before he wraps up the D.C. leg of his trip. He will give a blessing, but it is unknown whether he will sit down to eat himself.
“I want to come and actually be in the vicinity of homeless people -- that’s something we never thought was possible,” said one woman. “And we’re happy to know that he cares about us and someone actually does care about us out there.”
St. Maria's Meals handed out 42 million plates of food in the D.C. region last year. It will also be a big day for the dozens who volunteer their time to make these meals happen.
“We really appreciate that he’s acknowledged what we do here,” one volunteer told us.
“He says things like go out into the fringes, go out in the periphery,” said Father Enzler. “He says things to priests like, ‘Get out of your rectories.’ That’s what we’re doing here.”
This is this last scheduled event in D.C. before Pope Francis leaves for New York.
For those wondering about whether there is any sort of etiquette you need to use in the pope's presence, Father Enzler said the correct term is "Your Holiness.”
He said some people want to shake the pope’s hand and some people like to kiss the pope's ring, but Father Enzler said at the end of the day, the pope is a human being who likes to be among his people, so they are not giving out any specific instructions.