VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis, in his latest gesture towards people living on the margins of society, is treating Rome's poor, homeless and migrants to a day at circus.
The Vatican said on Wednesday that the office of the pope's almoner, which manages his local charity disbursements and activities, had arranged for 2,100 people to take in a show at the Medrano Circus on Rome's outskirts.
The Vatican arranged for tickets for the Thursday afternoon performance for poor, homeless, a group of prisoners, children of needy families, volunteers and care givers.
In 2016, a court in the northern city of Padua handed down an eight-month suspended sentence to an administrator of the circus following accusations by animal rights advocates that its animals were mistreated.
Salvatore Mendola, a manager and spokesman for the circus, said the charges were denied at the time and that the case was still in the appeals process.
Mendola told Reuters on Wednesday that the circus was now under a different administrator.
"We treat our animals very well. We have to get permission to hold shows in each city and are inspected by veterinarians before permission is given," he said.
"Our animals are super-controlled," he said.
The Vatican said a mobile medical clinic would be on hand outside the circus tent on Thursday to treat the visitors' routine health problems.
In recent years, the pope has set up places for the homeless to get showers, hair cuts and shaves near the Vatican. He has also offered them a private tour of the Sistine Chapel and last November hosted about 7,000 of them to a gourmet meal at the Vatican. (Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Alison Williams)