Vatican completes work on new showers for homeless

by Joshua J. McElwee

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Homeless people in Rome will now have access to three new showers and a small barber shop in a space near St. Peter's Square, after construction of new facilities undertaken on the pope's behalf. 

Completion of the work, which has captivated attention for its focus on the needs of Rome's poorest, was announced in a brief press statement Friday. 

The new facilities, built under the direction of the archbishop who distributes charity on behalf of Pope Francis, will be located on the right side of the historic colonnades in the Square -- right under what had been used as the papal apartments before Francis decided to live in the Vatican's St. Martha Hotel.

The showers, which the Vatican says use "modern techniques" including hot water, will be open every day except when there is a papal event in the Square or St. Peter's Basilica. The barbershop will be open Mondays, the day when barbers traditionally take a day off in Italy.

Construction of the facilities, the Vatican said, was undertaken with "great sobriety and dignity."

Those who visit the Vatican showers will receive a change of underwear, soap, deodorant, and other hygiene products. They will be served by various volunteers, including lay Catholics and those in several religious orders. 

The project was overseen by Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, whose official title is the papal almoner. The Vatican statement does not say when the facilities will first open for service, but they are expected to do so in coming days.

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]



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