Vatican announces plan to provide showers for homeless: Three restrooms in St. Peter's Square will be remodeled

The archbishop who distributes charity on behalf of Pope Francis has announced that the public restrooms in St. Peter's Square will include showers where the homeless can wash.

The service will require volunteers and donations of soap, towels and clean underwear, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, told Catholic News Service on Nov. 13. "We have to be evangelical, but intelligent, too."

Advertisement

Several people living on the streets of Rome or in tents say it is not difficult to find a parish or charity that will give them something to eat, but finding a place to wash is much more difficult.

Barbara, a Polish woman who lives in a tent with her teenage son and a companion, said showers in the Vatican's public restrooms "would be good. We'd thank them if it works."

Her companion, who calls himself Stefano, said: "I'm a mason without work. I'll help them build it. No problem."

The news site Vatican Insider first reported the news that Archbishop Krajewski had asked the office governing Vatican City State to include showers in an already-approved project to remodel the public restrooms in St. Peter's Square.

The remodeling work and installation of the showers was scheduled to begin Nov. 17. The archbishop said the three shower stalls would be located in the public restrooms a few steps north of Bernini's Colonnade, just behind the Vatican post office.

The archbishop told Vatican Insider that in early October he was talking to a homeless man near the Vatican and discovered it was the man's 50th birthday. He invited the man to a restaurant for dinner, but the man declined, saying a restaurant would not let him in because of his odor.

Sitting on the steps of the Vatican press office on Nov. 13, Barbara and Stefano were discussing the plans with a small group of Polish friends—and expressing some doubts about it to reporters.

The Rome diocesan Caritas, the Community of Sant'Egidio and other organizations offer shower facilities to the homeless in Rome, Barbara said, "but there are so many things you have to do. You have to get there at 4 in the morning to sign in. Then only 15 people get in each day."

In addition, she said, because the number of homeless men is so much greater than the number of homeless women, many of the shower facilities are only for men or are open to women only a half day each week.

Archbishop Krajewski told Vatican Insider that he is visiting parishes in areas where homeless people gather and is encouraging them to install public showers if they have not already. His office will help fund the building, he said.

"It is not simple," he said. "It is easier to prepare sandwiches than to run a shower service—you need volunteers, towels, clean underwear."

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Imtiaz Cajee, nephew of Ahmed Timol, poses with his book about the activist on Aug. 24 in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa. (AP Photo, File)
A judge has overturned a finding of suicide and ruled that Ahmed Timol was murdered by South Africa’s Security Police 45 years ago.
Anthony EganOctober 23, 2017
Activists with Planned Parenthood demonstrate in support of a pregnant 17-year-old being held in a Texas facility for unaccompanied immigrant children to obtain an abortion, outside of the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017.
Texas bishops: "No one -- the government, private individuals or organizations -- should be forced to be complicit in abortion."
Catholic News ServiceOctober 23, 2017
It is time for the laity to speak out and act like true disciples of Christ in spreading the joy of the Gospel. 
Thomas J. ReeseOctober 23, 2017
Pope Francis speaks from the Vatican as he addresses Canadian youths in a video message that was included in a Salt and Light Television program on Oct. 22 (CNS photo/courtesy Holy See Press Office).
“The world, the church, are in need of courageous young people, who are not cowed in the face of difficulties," the pope said.
Michael J. O’LoughlinOctober 23, 2017