One of the things I have noticed in Rome is the increasing number of beggars on the streets. There are more Nigerians selling handbags, Tamils selling cheap toys, Chinese selling things made of wire, there were a lot of Albanians and Romanians and cripples, lots of children begging too.
One of the problems in wandering around in a soutane is that beggars make a bee-line for you, I am glad they do. I am glad the clergy attract them, I am, glad that they hang around Church doors and give an option to worshippers fopr practical charity.
I always keep a the loose change and hand out a few coins here and there, or a few cigarettes, I know it is inadequate and most probably does more for me, than it does for them. Outside of St Mary Major I had quite a long converstation with a group of Punjabi men who had wanted to get to England but had got stuck in Rome; they were Muslims, they had all started drinking. As they had no good news they had no contact with their families, several had wives and children, one had no contact with home for eight years. "As far as I am concerned they must think I am dead", said one man. These men live on the street and beg, a few pious organisations give them food, the Sister so Charity offer them a little from the little they have, but really they have nothing, their situation seems even a little worse than in England apart from what the Church does for them. Their situation seemed so hopeless, so pitiful.