A 20th century composer once wrote a symphonic work called "The Fountains of Rome."
Apparently, there’s going to be a new “fountain” in the Eternal City.
Under the direction of Pope Francis, showers for the homeless will be installed in St. Peter’s Square. Work will begin Monday.
Andrea Tornielli reported today at his Vatican Insider column in LaStampa that the papal almoner, Bishop Konrad Krajewski, found out that one of the biggest needs for the homeless in Rome is a place to get a decent shower.
“Here, no one starves to death,” a homeless man told Bishop Krajewski on one of his fact-finding missions for the Pope. “You can find a sandwich every day. But there is no place to use the toilet and wash.”
Under the Bernini colonnade surrounding St. Peter’s Square, there are public restrooms for pilgrims. Now, part of the facilities will be converted to showers to be used by the homeless. Ten parishes in the area, likewise, have already installed showers for the homeless.
It all started when Bishop Krajewski invited a homeless man to dinner to celebrate his birthday. The man, whom Tornielli refers to as “Franco,” declined, saying, “Father, I can’t go to a restaurant with you because I smell.”
Bishop Krajewski had already had a street ministry when Pope Francis, who has brought a new focus on the poor and marginalized, tapped him to serve as papal almoner, a sort of "first responder" to the needs of the indigent. The Polish prelate explained to Tornielli that the homeless man he met and invited to dinner was aware of places he could go to shower, but they are "always very crowded."
The conversation led to Krajewski visiting 10 area parishes, where he invited pastors to build showers for the homeless, paide for by the Pope’s charity.
Where does the money come from? Tornielli reveals that part of it is from a foundation established by the tenor Andrea Boccelli.
What about the reaction of tourists and pilgrims to the three new showers under the beautiful colonnade? "The Basilica exists in order to keep the Body of Christ, and we serve Jesus’ suffering body by serving the poor," he responds. "Always, in the history of Rome, the poor congregated around the basilicas."
John Burger is news editor for Aleteia’s English edition.