"Pope Francis (Jorge Mario Bergoglio) meeting engaged couples for Saint Valentine feast on Saint Peter's Square. Vatican City, 2014  (Photo by Grzegorz Galazka\Archivio Grzegorz Galazka\Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)"
Pope rents private beach for the disabled
00:59 - Source: CNN

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Work of Love puts ramps and boardwalks across the sand for easy wheelchair access

Volunteers from the Italian Paralympic Swimming Federation help people in water

Rome CNN  — 

Pope Francis is paying a year’s rent for a private beach near Rome so a charity can help people with disabilities enjoy the sea and sun, according to the group that manages the program.

The group Work of Love has rented a portion of the Little Madonna beach since 2012 and outfitted it with boardwalks, ramps and water vehicles to provide access to people in wheelchairs and those with other issues that make a day at the beach difficult.

Monseigneur Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, told CNN that Francis gave the charity an undisclosed sum to “support the project that helps disabled youth and in particular to cover the cost of the annual rent for the beach known as the Little Madonna.”

Work of Love said in a statement on its website it received the news of the donation with “enthusiasm and astonishment.”

The Rev. Massimo Consolaro, the priest in charge of the group, told CNN that hundreds of people with disabilities use the beach every year, and the numbers are rising.

Hundreds of people use what the charity group calls a "beach without architectural or mental barriers."

The program is run by volunteers, including medical personnel and helpers from the Italian Paralympic Swimming Federation, who make sure participants are safe in the water.

Work of Love created the space – about 17 miles south of Rome – to be a “beach without architectural or mental barriers, where everyone can enjoy the sea together,” the group said on its website.

Consolaro said it’s the only beach in the region to provide personnel and facilities to support people with disabilities.

CNN’s Delia Gallagher reported from Rome, and Alanne Orjoux wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Livia Borghese contributed to this report.