Vatican City, Feb 5, 2015 / 09:53 am
After several days of rain and dreary weather that has not yet cleared, the Vatican's papal almoner has distributed 300 umbrellas to homeless persons around Rome on behalf of Pope Francis.
Italian news agency ANSA reports that the almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, handed out the umbrellas to homeless persons who gravitate toward the Vatican, as well as various other areas around Rome.
As papal almoner, the Polish bishop is charged with the dual responsibility of carrying out acts of charity for the poor and raising the money to fund them. 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.
In November, at the archbishop's request, construction started on new showers for the homeless in the public bathrooms in St. Peter's Square, which had already been scheduled for renovation for some time.
Vatican Insider reports that Archbishop Krajewski received his inspiration for the showers after taking a homeless man to dinner in order to celebrate his birthday. The man, who turned 50, told the archbishop that finding food in the city is easy, but staying clean is not.
Also included in the renovated bathrooms is the space for a barber, where the homeless will be able to go to get a haircut and keep themselves tidy.
The difficulty that homeless persons face in washing themselves, the archbishop noted, can be a cause for others to reject them – or causes them to fear rejection.
Another reason for offering the showers and haircuts is to promote health and help reduce the risk of disease, he added.
Many barbers have volunteered for the service 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.