The Polish archbishop tasked by the pope with caring for the poor makes way for Syrian couple expecting a baby.
VATICAN CITY — The Papal Almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, has been responsible for the installation of showers, a barbershop and a laundromat near the Vatican, as well as other initiatives on behalf of the poor, including a new dormitory.
What fewer people know, however, is that behind the scenes the Polish archbishop has also given up his Vatican apartment for refugee families fleeing war torn areas, and has for several months been sleeping in his office.
Born in Lodz on November 25, 1963, the Polish archbishop is taking seriously the task Pope Francis entrusted to him when he was appointed in 2013.
“Sell your desk; you don’t need it,” the pope told him at the time. “Don’t wait for people to come ringing. You need to go out and look for the poor.”
For Archbishop Krajewski, giving up his apartment “is normal, and nothing exception,” he told La Repubblica. “There are so many priests in the world who, for a long time, have been acting this way. Charity and sharing are in the Church’s DNA. Everyone is asked something depending on the task he has. I have no family. I’m a simple priest, offering my apartment doesn’t cost me anything.”
The papal almoner made the decision to give up his apartment some months ago, after hearing through humanitarian channels affiliated with the Vatican that a Syrian couple (whose baby girl was born a few days ago) was arriving in Rome. He moved into his office, located in the little building that houses the Office of Papal Charities inside the Leonine Walls. For several weeks he lived in a little room on the ground floor, where the papal blessing parchments are kept. But then he moved to the top floor to ensure a bit more privacy.
As La Repubblica reported, at the entrance to the almoner’s offices is a statue of Jesus portrayed as a homeless man lying on a bench. At his feet, there is room for anyone who wishes to sit down. There the poor often come and wait their turn to receive help and support from the papal almoner. Anyone can come knocking and many, when they do, lay their hand on the feet of Jesus, as if asking for his providence and protection.
“Our services remain open all summer,” Archbishop Krajewski explained. “The barber shop, the showers near the colonnade of St. Peter’s, the medical facility, the public bathrooms. People need these services every day of the year, and at all hours of the day. We never close.”
In announcing the first World Day of the Poor (November 19, 2017) Pope Francis asked Christians to extend their hand to the poor after the example of St. Francis. In his message for the World Day, he wrote:
“We may think of the poor simply as the beneficiaries of our occasional volunteer work, or of impromptu acts of generosity that appease our conscience. However good and useful such acts may be for making us sensitive to people’s needs and the injustices that are often their cause, they ought to lead to a true encounter with the poor and a sharing that becomes a way of life. Our prayer and our journey of discipleship and conversion find the confirmation of their evangelic authenticity in precisely such charity and sharing. This way of life gives rise to joy and peace of soul, because we touch with our own hands the flesh of Christ. If we truly wish to encounter Christ, we have to touch his body in the suffering bodies of the poor, as a response to the sacramental communion bestowed in the Eucharist. The Body of Christ, broken in the sacred liturgy, can be seen, through charity and sharing, in the faces and persons of the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters. Saint John Chrysostom’s admonition remains ever timely: “If you want to honor the body of Christ, do not scorn it when it is naked; do not honor the Eucharistic Christ with silk vestments, and then, leaving the church, neglect the other Christ suffering from cold and nakedness” (Hom. in Matthaeum, 50.3: PG 58).”
Having decided to give up his apartment for a Syrian family, Archbishop Krajewski says he is already experiencing the blessings: “The lovely thing is that for the first time in my home, a beautiful little girl was born. And I confess, I feel a bit like a grandfather, an uncle. It is life that is continuing, a gift of God.”