Pope Francis offered free gelatos for the homeless on his name day last Monday, April 23. At least 3,000 chocolate ice creams topped with nuts in various flavored cones have been prepared for distribution at soup kitchens and shelters in Rome in celebration of his namesake St. George's feast day.
Pope Francis' actual birth name is Jorge (George) Mario Bergoglio. In the past, he celebrated his real birthday, celebrated in December, with a special breakfast with the poor and by distributing hundreds of sleeping bags for the homeless.
The pope chose Francis as his papal name when he assumed the post in 2013 to honor St. Francis of Assisi who was "a man of poverty." He desired to follow in the saint's example in leading the church to serve the poor.
"It's not like gelato is the only thing he gives away," Ruggerio, one of the homeless who enjoyed the gelato treat, told reporters. "Everything this pope does he does for the poor," he continued, adding, "And then there's his smile."
Seated next to Ruggerio was Alberto, who said that the pope showed a charming gesture. Nearby, Antonino Siragusa also enjoyed his gelato and helped pass some of the treats to the rest of the homeless. He told reporters that he has personally met Pope Francis six times as he regularly visited shelters. Siragusa described him as a "good person" with a ready smile for everyone.
Pope Francis began his journey to priesthood as a Jesuit novitiate in 1958. He was ordained in 1969 and became a professor, rector and provincial superior in his diocese in Argentina, his native country.
In 1992, then Pope John Paul II appointed Pope Francis as the Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires. Six years later, he became the archbishop after the death of Cardinal Antonio Quarracino. He was promoted to cardinal in 2001.
In March 2013, the College of Cardinals elected Pope Francis as the leader of the Catholic Church after Pope Benedict XVI, also known as Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger from Germany, stepped down due to his advanced age that same year in February.