A group of homeless men sleep just outside of St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Thursday (Nov. 13, 2014). Religion News Service photo by Josephine McKenna

Pope Francis to build showers for homeless in St. Peter's Square

VATICAN CITY (RNS) In his latest bid to ease the suffering of the poor -- and upend the expectations of the papacy -- Pope Francis plans to build showers for the homeless under the sweeping white colonnade of St. Peter’s Square.

A group of homeless men sleep just outside of St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Thursday (Nov. 13, 2014).  Religion News Service photo by Josephine McKenna

Homeless men sleep just outside of St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Thursday (Nov. 13, 2014). Religion News Service photo by Josephine McKenna


 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Three showers are to be built into refurbished public restrooms provided for Catholic pilgrims along the marble columns leading into the historic basilica, which was completed in 1626.

The Vatican’s deputy spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, said Thursday (Nov. 13) that the project was a joint initiative of the pope and Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner who distributes charity on the pope’s behalf. Construction is due to begin next week (Nov. 17).

It’s an unconventional move, even for a pope who constantly preaches that more should be done to help the poor. It also could rankle traditionalists as the homeless line up to wash beneath the extravagant apostolic apartments that Francis shunned after his election.

“I think it’s a good thing,” said Adrian Sztrajt, a 27-year-old homeless man from the Polish city of Chelm. “I would like to go for showers there.”

Sztrajt and his companion Grzegorz Bialas, also from Poland, sleep with half a dozen others under the porticoes in front of the Vatican press office beside St. Peter’s Square.

Bialas said he's a fan of the pope but thinks the showers are “a bad idea” since they could attract hundreds of homeless to the Vatican. He also said it was possible for the homeless to get a shower elsewhere in Rome.

Dariusz Puszkarz, a construction worker from Gdansk, said the showers were less important than finding work. He said he was fed up with the priests and cardinals who walked past their group every day without stopping to help them.

“They don’t do anything,” he said in Polish through an interpreter. “They think we don’t want to work. Because we drink, everyone thinks we are alcoholics. No one says there is work for you.”

The Italian daily La Stampa reported Thursday that Krajewski had pressed for the showers to be built after he met a homeless man called Franco in October.

When he learned it was Franco’s 50th birthday, he had invited him for dinner. But the man said he was too embarrassed because of his body odor while complaining there were no toilet or wash facilities around the Vatican.

 A homeless man sits under the right colonnade close to where the showers are going to be built in St. Peter's square at the Vatican on Thursday (Nov 13, 2014). Religion News Service photo by Josephine McKenna

A homeless man sits under the right colonnade, close to where the showers are going to be built in St. Peter's square at the Vatican, on Thursday (Nov. 13, 2014). Religion News Service photo by Josephine McKenna


 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Krajewski, who is also Polish, was not available for comment. He told La Stampa's Vatican Insider that he had visited 10 parishes in Rome where the homeless gather and asked them to install shower facilities. He said he tells parish priests: “The Holy Father is paying!”

The Community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic charity that helps Rome's homeless, also publishes a handbook, titled “Where to eat, sleep and wash,” in several languages.

“It is not simple, because it is easier to make sandwiches than run a shower service,” Krajewski said. “We need volunteers, towels, underwear.”

But Catholic charity is unlikely to stop there. Next on Krajewski’s list is haircuts. He said he has asked a local hairdressing school if students may be available to give haircuts to pilgrims without a home.

KRE/MG END McKENNA

Comments

  1. I think its about time those high faluten cardinals with their fancy outfits laundered to perfection by some underpaid old women are forced to have the homeless in their raggedy clothes staying in their back yards = are they christian or not. When was the last time you saw a homeless man being given a cardinals outfit by a cardinal due to the goodness of the cardinals heart I invite all to email me on this subject at [email protected]

  2. is it wrong to worship a pope? I am NOT Catholic but I love this man completely.

  3. This Pope is a Humanist, which means he doesn’t care about God’s law – he cares about humans instead.

    It is like having a Mr. Rogers trying to run the Mafia.
    Too bad he believes in excorcism and other supernatural nonsense.

  4. The pope said he wanted “a poor church for the poor.” However, he has never suggested nor ordered any Vatican official or any of the tens of thousands of diocesan bishops and superiors of religious orders to divest their assets. Nor has he asked for a public disclosure of those assets.

    Francis has helped the poor and urged others to do so. But he has been a lifelong ideological opponent of governments who want to eradicate the causes of poverty.

    Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s “biography is that of a conservative populist…adamant on doctrinal issues but with an openness to the world, especially toward the dispossessed masses….But at the same time he attempted to unify the opposition against the first government in many years which adopted a policy favorable to those groups,” according to Ernesto Semán, a historian at New York University and former reporter for two Argentine newspapers. Since the majority of Latin American nations are now governed by left-leaning parties, Semán said that the election of this “very conservative cardinal from the region might help bolster forces that are opposed to continuing this enormous change that’s occurring in Latin America.” http://www.democracynow.org/2013/3/14/a_social_conservative_pope_francis_led of the liberal

    Bergoglio was promoted all the way to cardinal by Pope John Paul II whose most enduring accomplishment was morphing the U.S. episcopate from a pro-civil rights, anti-war group into leaders of the Religious Right. Despite his ability to verbally inspire our highest aspirations, Bergoglio was promoted because the Argentine shared his pontiff’s rightwing ideology including opposition to liberation theology http://www.democracynow.org/2013/3/14/a_social_conservative_pope_francis_led , a teaching that the social and political structures causing poverty should to be changed.

    Sounding like his American confreres, Bergoglio accused the Kirchner government’s efforts to legalize same-sex marriage as “demagoguery, totalitarianism, http://news.yahoo.com/argentina-boot-camp-politically-savvy-pope-214815262.html corruption and efforts to secure unlimited power.”

  5. A good, very practical gesture on Francis’s part. But as the article indicates, there are some additional issues in there that aren’t going to go away — and somehow I doubt that merely proclaiming “The Holy Father is paying (for it)” will address those issues.

    But here’s hoping and praying that it will work out to some degree, for those affected.

  6. Oh don’t worry Betty. Mr. Pope Francis has already converted to the Gay Marriage Religion. That’s a done deal. He has become the Vatican’s answer to Barack Obama on that unfortunate topic.

    (Which is why Obama has said so many good things in the media about him. Obama knows a Gay-Marriage Pope when he sees one. Buddy-buddy, all the way.)

    Whatever Cardinal Bergoglio may have been, THAT guy is long gone. NOW, you’ve got yourself a socialist, a liberation theologian, AND a no-doubt-about-it Gay Marriage Activist.

    Catholic Christianity can still function with those first two traits. But that last one is guaranteed to produce HUGE damage and paralysis to Catholicism, and there won’t be enough homeless showers in the world to wash off the mess. Catholics picked the wrong Pope, and soon the bill will come due.

  7. Since liberation theology includes the theology of civil rights, wouldn’t it be compatible with civil rights for LGBT people?

  8. @ amax

    if the pope is a humanist that means he is not going to be building those showers after all .. it means he will let those he conceder’s to be the peons do the building and he will just take credit for it,, just like all the rest of the haughty humanists do.

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  10. Well, its a nice charitable gesture and I hope its useful and appreciated by some. Except sometimes dysfunctional people will resist a shower. They are used to being how they are and don’t want change. You can the bring the horse to water but you can’t make him drink.

  11. I really want to plough Josephine McKenna, hottest bitch around.
    If I had the choice between Josephine and Miranda Kerr,I would definitely be ploughing Josephine all night long. She will not be walking for a long time.
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