Pope Francis wanted to help Italy’s prisoners cool down as temperatures soared to record levels this summer — so he sent them 15,000 ice creams.
Inmates at the Regina Coeli jail and Rebibbia prison in Rome were blessed with the frozen goods, an act the Vatican described as one of several “small evangelical gestures” made “to help and give hope to thousands” imprisoned in the capital.
The ice creams were delivered in Francis’s name by Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, who is known as the “papal almoner.” The role, to which Krajewski was appointed in 2013, requires him to carry out charitable acts on behalf of the pope and the Vatican’s charities.
Volunteers working for the pontiff’s charitable organizations spent the summer “continuing to devote themselves, among other things, to two of the seven works of mercy: visiting prisoners and consoling the afflicted,” the Vatican said.
For Catholics, the Seven Corporal Works of Mercy are charitable actions that help “respond to the basic needs of humanity,” and also include feeding the hungry and visiting the sick.
Last month, temperatures on the island of Sicily climbed to 119.8 degrees Fahrenheit (48.8C) — potentially setting an all-time heat record for Europe. The extreme heat came as other parts of the continent grappled with extreme weather, including deadly flooding.
The intense heat wave prompted weather warnings in several countries and sparked deadly wildfires in Greece, Italy, Tunisia and Turkey. The fires, which were fueled by dry and wind winds, destroyed large areas of land and caused residents to flee their houses.
Christian Solinas, the president of the Sardinia region, said the blazes were “an unprecedented disaster” as Italian officials called on the European Union for help in tackling the crisis.
Scientists note that extreme weather events will become more common as a result of human-caused climate change, according to a report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in August.
Francis is widely known for his acts of love and generosity and has often visited prisons at home and abroad.
In 2018, he had 3,000 helpings of gelato delivered to the homeless and needy. That same year, he marked the World Day of the Poor by hosting a lunch for 1,500 people in need at the Vatican.
Items on the menu included lasagna, mashed potatoes and tiramisu, Vatican News reported at the time.
Last Christmas, Slovakia gifted Francis 4,000 coronavirus swab test kits, which he gave to Rome’s homeless community in a bid to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus — an infection that has claimed almost 130,000 lives in Italy.