.- The Vatican’s continued efforts to help the homeless of Rome have expanded beyond showers and bathrooms at St. Peter’s Square, with a barber shop set to open soon.
“Our primary concern is to give people their dignity,” Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, head of the Office of Papal Charities, told the Italian news agency ANSA.
In November, construction started on new showers and bathrooms for the homeless under the colonnades of St. Peter’s Square. The archbishop, who oversaw the project, set aside space for a barber.
He noted the difficulty that the homeless face in washing themselves, which in turn helps cause others to reject them—or causes them to fear rejection.
“A person needs to keep their hair and facial hair tidy, also in order to prevent diseases,” the archbishop said. “This is another service that homeless people do not have easy access to. It is not easy for them to enter a normal shop because there may be a fear of customers catching something, like scabies for example.”
The initiative will also help “the good of the city,” since homeless people often take buses and the subway and come into contact with others.
The Poland-born Archbishop Krajewski is the papal almoner, who conducts acts of charity for the poor and raises money to fund the charitable work. When the archbishop was appointed, Pope Francis urged him not to stay at his desk but rather to be an active worker for the benefit of the poor.
Many barbers have volunteered with enthusiasm, including two barbers from the national Italian organization that transports the sick to Lourdes, France and other international shrines. Other volunteers are finishing their final year in barber school.
The barber service will be open on Mondays, when barber shops in Italy are traditionally closed. It is scheduled to open in several weeks.