Pope gives red carpet treatment to homeless and refugees at Vatican premiere of biopic

Pope Francis arrives to lead a weekly audience at the Vatican. He has made a focus on the poor a defining note of his papacy.Reuters

Homeless people were given the red carpet treatment at the Vatican on Tuesday at the premiere of a film about Pope Francis, according to the Catholic News Service.

The premiere of Call Me Francesco took place in the Vatican audience hall and homeless people and refugees were among those invited at the pope's personal request.

"To this exceptional premiere, the Holy Father wished to invite the poor, the homeless, refugees and the people most in need, together with the volunteers, religious and lay people, who work daily in charity," a statement from the papal almoner's (charities) office said.

Parishes and charitable associations in Rome were given 7,000 tickets for the poor to attend the event, which included a concert featuring the Pontifical Swiss Guard's musical band, many of whom were playing in their spare time.

The audience was also offered packed meals donated by benefactors.

Directed by Italian filmmaker Daniele Luchetti, Call Me Francesco depicts the life of Jorge Mario Bergoglio from his childhood in Buenos Aires to his election to the papacy in 2013.

At the premiere Luchetti said he hoped the film would be "an emotional moment" in following "the footsteps of a man we admire".

The young Bergoglio is portrayed by Argentine actor Rodrigo de la Serna, who said: "It's crazy, I never imagined in my life to be here at the Vatican, much less portraying Jorge Mario Bergoglio. It's a dream!"

One of the homeless people attending the premiere, identified as 'David', told CNS it was "truly emotional" to the see the path followed by Pope Francis. "His way of being close to the poor, close to people in need and the endless struggle against evil" was particularly moving, he said.

One group of refugees from Eritrea at the premiere held a large banner with the words,"Thank you, Pope Francis!" written on it.

A young refugee who wished to remain anonymous told CNS that he was happy to see the film, and that the pope's life showed that prayer can be a powerful solution, even in the most difficult circumstances. Pope Francis' story gave him hope that "everything will be all right for us".