Sistine Chapel is your house

'Doors open to all,' Francis says

(ANSA) - Vatican City, March 26 - Pope Francis on Thursday welcomed 150 homeless people into the Sistine Chapel, telling them "this is your house".
    The group was invited for an exclusive visit to the extensive Vatican Museums complex including the chapel with Michelangelo's iconic frescoes, where Francis popped in in to greet them.
    Greeting his guests, the pope shook hands with all those he met and said: "Welcome. This is the house of all, it is your house. The doors are always open for all". Francis thanked Papal Almoner Msgr Konrad Krajewski for setting up the visit, which he described as a "small caress" for the guests.
    The pope asked his guests: "Pray for me. I need the prayers of people like you".
    Francis went on to bless the visiting homeless, saying "May the Lord keep you, help you along life's path and let you feel the tender love of the Father".
    Francis then said goodbye to all the street people individually, spending another 20 minutes with his guests, according to the deputy head of the Vatican press office, Father Ciro Benedettini. The homeless had entered the Vatican via St Peter's Gate and got to the Vatican Museums by skirting the apse of St Peter's Basilica.
    The visit, complete with tour guides explaining the sights, included a walk through other Vatican City areas, such as the gardens.
    The larger group was divided into three groups of 50 for the museum visit that began in the Hall of Carriages.
    The Sistine Chapel was closed to the public after 4 p.m.
    to give the homeless group, back together again, exclusive access.
    After the meeting with the pope and the visit to the Sistine Chapel they headed off at about 18:00 to the refreshment centre inside the museums.
    After dining they left the museums by the same route they took to get in.
    The visit, quickly blessed by the pope when Cardinal Krajewski put it to him recently, was the latest papal effort for Rome's poor and homeless, many of whom sleep rough around the Vatican.
    Francis recently had special showers for the homeless installed in Bernini's famous colonnade, where users were given towels, dressing gowns and slippers as well as a personal grooming kit.
    Before that he laid on a barber's service for street people to get their hair cut and have a wash and brush-up.