A homeless man who used to urge pilgrims to go to Confession and pray daily has been buried at a Vatican cemetery.
Willy Herteller, who was Flemish, died in December at the age of 80 and his body had been left unclaimed at a local morgue.
But a Vatican official – Mgr Americo Ciani, of the Roman Rota – upon discovering his death arranged a burial for him alongside illustrious Germans at the Teutonic Cemetery, just behind St Peter’s Basilica.
Vatican spokesman Fr Ciro Benedettini told the website Cruxnow.com that Vatican employees regarded Mr Herteller as a good man who attended Mass twice a day in the church of St Anna.
Fr Benedettini said: “He used to say that receiving Communion was his medicine.
“He slept with other eight homeless people, trying to bring them closer to Jesus,” he said.
Fr Benedettini said that, contrary to reports, Pope Francis was not involved in the decision to bury Mr Herteller at the Vatican.
Fr Bruno Silvestrini, the parish priest at the church of St Anna, told Vatican Radio that Mr Herteller had attended the 7am Mass for 25 years.
Fr Silvestrini said: “He was very, very open and had made many friends. He spoke a lot with young people, he spoke to them of the Lord, he spoke of the Pope, he would invite them to the celebration of the Eucharist. He was a rich person of great faith…
“Then we no longer saw him, and subsequently we heard about his death. I’ve never seen so many people knocking on my door to ask when the funeral was, how they could help to keep his memory alive,” he said.