Vatican homeless shelter continues long history of the Church’s charitable works

By:

Talk about a breath of fresh air. NPR spent some minutes reporting that Pope Francis had turned a one-time palace near the Vatican into a shelter for homeless people in Rome.

The Church has had so much bad publicity recently. This story was a relief.

For centuries, an Italian noble family had occupied this building, with all its grandeur and elegance. In 1930, the Holy See bought the property, and a community of nuns took possession of it to be a residence for single mothers.

Recently, the nuns moved elsewhere, along with the shelter.

Plenty of news, and comment, has circulated, now for a while, about the fact that the Vatican is having trouble paying its bills. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that someone in the papal accounting office suggested a plan to turn the old palace into a gold mine.

Realizing that the palace sits on prime real estate, the plan proposed that it be leased to a major luxury hotel operator. Once renovated, each room in the hotel would go for a pretty penny, the bar and restaurant would rake in the cash, and the Vatican would collect plenty of money in rent.

Pope Francis defined prime real estate in another way. Everyone in Rome, and any visitor with observing eyes, knows that homelessness is a serious problem in the city. People sleep on the streets, cuddling their meager possessions in a bag beneath their heads, as if the bag were a pillow, at times using discarded cardboard boxes as tents to protect themselves from the weather.

Food is another issue, as is sanitation.

When the nuns left the former palace, the Vatican did not make an offer to Hilton or Sheraton. Instead, it remodeled the building, installing, among other things, modern bathrooms. Then, when all improvements had been finished, the building opened to the homeless, come one, come all.

NPR interviewed one elderly man, down on his luck, who said that he could look from the window of his compact, but clean and warm, room onto the street below and see the spot where he once slept at night.

It is more than a collection of beds, running water and nourishing meals. Many cases among the homeless involve psychological issues. This new center employs mental health professionals. Access to medical doctors is available, as is counseling to help residents get back on their feet economically.

Since religious men and women are becoming few and far between, the Vatican enlisted a lay organization to operate the facility.

Who pays for the shelter? The Vatican pays for it. Where does it get its money? Catholics donate, in part through the Peter’s Pence collection held annually in every parish.

Criticism has come that Peter’s Pence is handled slip-shod or worse at the Vatican. Pope St. John Paul II instituted safeguards and reforms, as did Pope Benedict XVI, and as Pope Francis has continued.

This “palace for the homeless” is right out of the pages of the Gospels, one of thousands upon thousands, literally, of services and activities for the helpless, sick and troubled that the Catholic Church maintains and has maintained throughout the world since ancient times.

The first of hundreds of Catholic hospitals in what today is the United States was founded by French Daughters of Charity, who willingly left everything near and dear to care for the sick poor in New Orleans. Nuns cared for the hopeless lepers in Hawaii and on the mainland. Alexian Brothers built their hospitals. Good Shepherd nuns founded their places for troubled young women. Little Sisters of the Poor came to care for the elderly poor across the country.

Every diocese still spends very much for Catholic Charities.

So often the one word to describe the Church’s attention to people in need has been heroism. It is true to this day.

I listened to the NPR story, proud to be a Catholic.

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.

 

Catholic News & Perspective

Provides information on the Church, the nation and the world from OSV, America's most popular and trusted national Catholic news source


Recent

Opening the Word:

Friday, April 3, 2020
By: Timothy P. O'Malley This year, there will be no public processions. This year, there will be no waving of palms in the parish vestibule. This... Read More

The importance of community in a time of isolation

Wednesday, April 1, 2020
By: Russell Shaw So much has been said and written about the novel coronavirus that if words could stem a pandemic, we would all long since... Read More

The sacrifices we make: What it means to be a Christian under lockdown

Monday, March 30, 2020
By: Leonard J. DeLorenzo The effectiveness of nations and states’ efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus depends on broad social... Read More

Opening the Word: The sweetness of love has overcome the foul stench of death

Friday, March 27, 2020
By: Timothy P. O'Malley Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. The evangelist, John, is not just providing a chance detail to the reader.... Read More

Without weekly collections, parishes facing financial stress amid the pandemic

Wednesday, March 25, 2020
By:  Brian Fraga Msgr. Charles Kosanke has told his parish staff that he can keep them employed full-time until April 6. After that, he has no... Read More

In times of crisis, the Church has a history of stepping up

Monday, March 23, 2020
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion Fear of contagion is nothing new. Not that long ago, hardly back in the Dark Ages, the respected scientific opinion... Read More

Opening the Word: Sight and touch

Friday, March 20, 2020
By:  Timothy P. O'Malley As children, we learned about the five senses.  Sight is different from the sense of touch.  We see things,... Read More

With a miracle approved, beatification awaits computer programmer Carlo Acutis

Wednesday, March 18, 2020
By: Meg Hunter-Kilmer Venerable Carlo Acutis had a PlayStation. He made awkward videos with his friends. His favorite cartoon was... Read More

With a miracle approved, beatification awaits computer programmer Carlo Acutis

Wednesday, March 18, 2020
By: Meg Hunter-Kilmer Venerable Carlo Acutis had a PlayStation. He made awkward videos with his friends. His favorite cartoon was... Read More

Vatican homeless shelter continues long history of the Church’s charitable works

Monday, March 16, 2020
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion Talk about a breath of fresh air. NPR spent some minutes reporting that Pope Francis had turned a one-time palace near... Read More