It was a rare day for 200 homeless and the poor. They had lunch with Pope John Paul II, in Vatican City.
According to CBS News Reporter Sabina Castelfranco, the guests' menu included ravioli with ricotta cheese, veal roast with baked potatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese brought up from southern Italy, fruit, wine, champagne and coffee. Food they never dreamed of eating.
Three organizations, the Sant' Egidio Catholic group, Caritas Italiana and nuns from the order founded by the late Mother Teresa of Calcuta, chose the poor people who came dressed in the best they could afford.
The poor people, who included non-Christians and non-Italians and a few gypsy women with their children, ate with the pope and his top aides in the foyer of the Vatican's audience hall.
Down but dignified, most of them sat at 11 round tables with a cardinal or archbishop at each one in the foyer that was transformed into a smart dining hall. Eight lucky people flanked the 80-year-old pontiff at a rectangular table.
One who sat next to him, an old woman with wiry hair and a craggy face, said she sleeps on the street. "They are extremely excited, some of them did not sleep last night," said Archbishop Crezenzio Sepe, secretary of the Vatican's Committee for the 2000 Holy Year.
The poor people, most of whom frequent Rome's charity soup kitchens or scrounge for their next meal, were served by three waiters at each table, young men from Rome's seminaries or schools for Roman Catholic priests.
The special guests, for whom paper cups and plates usually are a luxury, found their tables set with fine beige-colored tablecloths with matching napkins and three glasses at each setting.
A band of 30 musicians and 10 singers played at the lunch, whose setting resembled that of a wedding party in a fine hotel. In an address after the lunch, the pope said that for him, it was one of the most important gatherings scheduled for the 2000 Holy Year.
"As I look at you one by one, I think of the many people in Rome, as well as in every part of the world who are going through trying and difficult times," he said.
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