Pope's barber shop for the poor and homeless to open in St. Peter's Square
VATICAN CITY — Sacred Scripture tells us that St. Peter cut off the centurion’s ear. Now his Successor is cutting hair.
Pope Francis is going to the fringes in a whole new way — and showing himself to be a cut above the rest — by opening a barber shop for the homeless in St. Peter’s Square, ANSA reported Thursday.
The service is an initiative of the Office of Papal Charities and is intended to express Pope Francis’ concern for the poor and vulnerable of society, and his desire to show them their dignity in the sight of God.
Haircuts and shaves will be available to the homeless every Monday in a barber shop under Bernini’s colonnade. In Italy, barber shops are traditionally closed on Mondays, allowing volunteer barbers to donate their time to the less fortunate.
Barbers across Rome have donated the tools of their trade to the cause: scissors, razors, brushes, a large mirror and even a professional barber’s chair.
The initiative follows the Holy See’s announcement last November that showers would be installed under the colonnade of St. Peter’s Basilica so that the homeless might bathe. The barber shop will be adjacent to them.
Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner charged with carrying out acts of charity on behalf of the Holy Father, Thursday told ANSA: “Our first desire is to give dignity to people. The person who doesn’t have a way to bathe is a person rejected by society, and we all know that a homeless man cannot present himself in a public place like a bar [Italian bars are where everyone enjoys a morning cappucino or grabs a sandwich at lunch] or restaurant because their services will be denied him.
But the papal almoner soon saw that providing a place for the homeless to shower was not enough. “One’s hair and beard also need to be groomed, in part to prevent disease” the Polish Archbishop said. “It’s another service that a homeless man or woman could hardly obtain in a normal shop, as the fear might arise of them giving customers some disease, such as scabies.”
It is therefore also a service to “the common good of the city”, the Archbishop added, “since the homeless move about the city among many people.”
In fact, it is well known in Rome that many homeless men take shelter each night under the porticos of the Holy See Press office or on adjacent streets. The new showers and barber shops will allow these men, and others who are homeless, to bathe and groom and live more in accord with their dignity as persons.
The new barbershop is scheduled to open February 16th, just two days before the beginning of the solemn 40 day liturgical season of Lent, when Christians are called to intensify their prayer, fasting and almsgiving, in order to purify their hearts of sin and prepare themselves for the solemn celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord.
Diane Montagna is Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.