Vatican to give homeless private VIP tour of Sistine Chapel

Pope Francis appears on a large screen as he leads a mass in the Sistine Chapel, at the Vatican March 14, 2013. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - In Pope Francis's latest gesture towards Rome's homeless, the Vatican said on Tuesday homeless people will get a special private tour of its museums and the Sistine Chapel. About 150 homeless people who frequent the Vatican area - where Pope Francis has already set up facilities for them to have showers - will make the visit on Thursday afternoon, the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano said. They will enter the Vatican via an entrance usually reserved for prelates and employees, walk past the guest house where Francis lives, and get a privileged view of the back of St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican gardens. The museums, visited by about six million people a year who pay at least 16 euros, will close early so the homeless can get VIP treatment in the Sistine Chapel with its famous Michelangelo frescoes. Francis, who was known as the "slum bishop" in his native Buenos Aires because of his frequent visits to shantytowns, has made concern for the poor a major plank of his papacy. (Reporting By Philip Pullella; editing by Ralph Boulton)