Homeless man to get Vatican burial

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The homeless man reportedly used to beg near St Peter's Basilica. Photo: Julie Faris
10:49 CET+01:00
A dead homeless man will have the rare honour of being buried in the Teutonic cemetery at the Vatican after Pope Francis gave his permission, according to Italian media reports.

The body of Willy Herteller will be laid to rest in the cemetery alongside German princes and bishops, according to reports in Il Messaggero.

Herteller, who is Flemish, was found dead between December and January at the age of 80 in the Vatican.

The homeless man reportedly used to beg near St Peter’s Basilica where he attended mass. He was known to many in the Vatican and was a friend of Monsignor Amerigo Ciani, the paper said. 

It was Ciani who first noticed the man's disappearance. When he found out about his friend’s death he asked Pope Francis’s permission for the man to be buried in the cemetery. 

Located between St Peter's Basilica and the Paul VI Audience Hall, the Teutonic cemetery is the oldest German establishment in Rome. During the Roman Empire, it was the site of the martyrdom of many Christians in the city.

Herteller will be the first homeless person to be buried in the cemetery.

When contacted by The Local, the Vatican was as yet unable to comment on the reports.

Pope Francis is renowned for his efforts to help the homeless.

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Since February 16th, homeless people have been able to get a free shave and a haircut at the Vatican as part of a papal charity initiative. 

The initiative follows the installation of toilets and showers for the homeless within the tiny city-state, a move that came about after a homeless man from Sardinia turned down a dinner invitation from Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the Vatican almoner, because he “smelled”.

Meanwhile, a dozen parishes in Rome have also installed showers, paid for by Pope Francis.   

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