“I am proud. Proud to see that our pilgrims, who sometimes find it hard to cope in their everyday lives, are so enthusiastic about this trip and have not had any particular concerns or fears. And I am also proud that the Catholic Church has instigated this challenge.” The heartfelt words of Bo Heide-Jochimsen, Head of the Danish charitable organisation Projekt Udenfor (“Project Outside”) resonate down the telephone line. This small organisation which has now been operating for twenty years, sends teams out onto the streets of Copenhagen to meet people living on the street. The first surprise are the profiles of the pilgrims – out of the 8 people heading for Rome, along with the organisation’s two social workers there are five Polish pilgrims and one Russian-Danish pilgrim. One of the specificities of the famous Danish “flexicurity” system is indeed the fact that Danish citizens enjoy high levels of state solidarity; in contrast, migrants from the European Union are not entitled to anything, and it is almost impossible to gain access to the labour market if they do not have a signed contract before entering the country. “It is a great country if you are Danish,” explains Bo. “If you are not, only the Churches and certain non-governmental organisations will help you “
Bo and his colleagues therefore focus their efforts on finding the “poorest of the poor”, developing relationships with them and helping them to find and stay on their feet. The organisation’s next project is to support a process used by most of the various organisations that make up Fratello: empowering people to take control of their own lives. “We are launching a two-year construction project during which the people receiving our help will help us to build their own house.” The emotional significance of this project is crucial. “It is not so much the fact that they are ‘houseless’ but that they are ‘homeless’,” Bo says smiling.
The 8 pilgrims will travel to Rome by plane in mid-November. For some, this is the very first time they will fly. “One of them is more worried about the plane than about meeting the Pope! This goes to show the impact Francis has had through this initiative.”