On orders from Pope Francis himself, the public restrooms under the colonnades surrounding Saint Peter’s Basilica will be outfitted with showers, so that Rome’s homeless will have a place to wash themselves and their clothing, according to Vatican Insider.
The need for the showers was brought to the Pontiff’s attention in October, after the Papal Almoner (that is, the Vatican official charged with giving alms to the poor) Konrad Krajewski took pity on a homeless Roman and offered to buy him supper at a Chinese restaurant.
“Father, I can’t go to the restaurant with you because I smell.”
Monsignor Krajewski, who prefers to be known as Father Conrad, was hand-picked by Pope Francis to be the Papal Almoner because of his habit of bringing food, money, and provisions to the Roman homeless during his time as a bishop. When Father Conrad met Franco, and offered to take him to supper, Franco explained that what the Roman homeless need is not food, but places to wash up.
“Here no one starves to death, you can find a sandwich every day. But there is no place to use the toilet and wash.”
By the way, the Almoner took the homeless man into the restaurant for supper anyway, according to The Local.
“I took him [to dinner] with me nonetheless. We went to a Chinese restaurant. During dinner, he explained to me that you can always find some food in Rome. What is missing is a place to wash.”
Besides the new showers at Saint Peter’s, Pope Francis and his Almoner also directed ten other churches in Rome, in neighborhoods where large numbers of homeless are known to congregate, to build showers for the homeless as well. The Vatican, through the Pope’s private charity fund, will pay for the showers.
“It is not simple, because it is easier to make sandwiches than run a shower service. We need volunteers, towels, underwear… The Holy Father is paying!”
In addition to the Vatican’s contribution, opera singer Andrea Bocelli has donated a considerable sum, and at least one Italian politician has asked plumbing contractors to consider installing and/or maintaining the showers for free or at a reduced cost, according to Vatican Insider.
When asked by a reporter if having throngs of homeless lined up to use the Basilica’s new showers would be off-putting to the tourists, Father Conrad responded by saying that Christ himself would have done the same.
“The Basilica exists in order to keep the Body of Christ, and we serve Jesus’ suffering body by serving the poor. Always, in the history of Rome, the poor congregated around the Basilicas.”
Construction of the showers for the homeless at Saint Peter’s Basilica will begin next Monday.
[Image courtesy of: History Cooperative]