The Papal Almoner, Konrad Krajewski has ordered the installation of three showers for the homeless in public baths of San Pedro.
Pope Francis has approved the creation of a washroom for the homeless under the colonnades of St Peter’s Square!
On Monday 17th of November work will begin to renovate the public restrooms for pilgrims: there will be a space for homeless people to wash. Ten parishes in Rome will do the same. The report from Pope Francis’ Almoner
Father, I can’t go to the restaurant with you because I smell. Franco is a homeless man from Sardinia, he has a bristly grey beard and weather-beaten skin. At the beginning of October, he was the one who explained to a bishop, who invited him to dinner to celebrate his birthday, what the biggest need for the homeless in Rome is. Here no one starves to death, you can find a sandwich every day. But there is no place to use the toilet and wash. The bishop is Konrad Krajewski, the Papal Almoner. The message was immediately received; on Monday 17th November work will begin to build three showers within the public restrooms for pilgrims under St. Peter’s colonnades. They will be devoted to the homeless who find themselves near the Basilica. They will be able to wash and change their underwear beneath the windows of the Apostolic Palace. And upon the invitation of the Pope’s Almoner, ten parishes in Rome in the neighborhoods most frequented by the homeless have already built showers which are available to them.
Monsignor Krajewski, known as Father Conrad, has been taking provisions and aid to those who live on the streets for years. Pope Francis has chosen him for this reason, appointing him bishop and entrusting him the Almonry; he has the task of being the Pope’s first responder: of providing small economic help to those who are enduring hardships. The Polish bishop tells of the meeting at the beginning of October, which opened his eyes: I had just come out of the Church of the Holy Spirit, where I go to hear confessions. In the Via della Conciliazione I met Franco, a homeless man. He told me that he was turning fifty that day and that he had been living on the street for ten years. The bishop invites him for dinner at a restaurant. The man answers: But I smell…. Monsignor Krajewski continues, I took him 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 places to wash.
In the capital, there are Caritas soup kitchens, there’s the soup kitchen of the Community of Sant’Egidio, but there are also many initiatives in parishes. Those who live on the streets know where to go. There are also places where it is possible to take a shower. The Community of Sant’Egidio, who are on the frontline in helping the homeless, published an updated handbook entitled Where to eat, sleep and wash. Franco explained that it is always very crowded and there is little time available. That is why I prefer to set money aside and book a shower room at Termini Station from time to time. The Papal Almoner, who had previously considered food as the primary need of the homeless, has no time to lose. He is used to acting immediately, without making grand plans, without organizing fundraisers that take months. In the Gospel, Jesus always uses the word “today”… And it is today that we must respond to people’s needs.
So he decides to visit ten parishes in areas of Rome where many homeless people live. He enters parish halls. If they do not already exist, he asks that showers be built, paid by the Pope’s charity. They are not expensive projects, they are not designed to become big community centers. They are rather a diffused service for the people in the neighborhoods of a city where public restrooms are closed and the homeless cannot go into cafés to use the toilet. Monsignor Krajewski explains that it is not simple, because it is easier to make sandwiches than run a shower service. We need volunteers, towels, underwear. Father Conrad tells the parish priests that the Holy Father is paying! And Providence never fails to assist. Andrea Bocelli, through his foundation, makes a substantial donation. A senator from the North requests the intervention of a firm which builds the showers in the parishes that lack them for free.
Even the Vatican plays its part. For a long time, the Governorate had been planning the renovation of the restrooms for the pilgrims under the colonnades, just tens of meters away from the Portone di Bronzo, on the right hand side of St. Peter’s. The needs expressed by Franco, the fifty-year-old homeless man, who has been living on the streets for ten years, and has lost many companions who died from the cold, cause a significant variation to be added to the project, with Pope Francis’ benediction. Three showers for the homeless under the imposing colonnades by Bernini, one of the most beautiful and visited places in the world. Krajewski replies to the reporter, who asks if some tourists might turn up their noses, by saying that 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.
In the showers in the shadows of St. Peter’s Dome, as well as in those in the various parishes of the capital, there will be no external sign. The service is dedicated to those who already live in the area, in order to relieve the big support centers. The Pope’s Almoner is trying to involve the pupils of a hairdressers’ training school, so that, as well as the shower, they can offer a haircut from time to time. Being able to wash and keep themselves tidy will make the homeless – or the pilgrims without a home, as Father Conrad calls them – less vulnerable to the diseases that are spread through dirt. Starting with Franco, who felt ashamed of being invited to the restaurant on that sunny October day.