Pope Francis recently opened a new place for the homeless on the doorstep of the Vatican. Although calling it a “place” is rather an understatement: It’s really a palace, using the historic name it has had for centuries - Palazzo Migliori.
The structure, just yards away from the colonnade of St. Peter’s Square, occupies an entire four-story building owned by the Vatican. The building had been used by a female religious congregation until a few months ago, and was then transferred to the Papal Almoner - Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, who has given it a second life.
In less than a month he arranged a complete renovation of the interior. Inside one will find nothing that looks like a homeless shelter - the building has historic wooden ceilings and pieces of art on the walls.
The cardinal is the pope’s right-hand man for charitable works, and is known in the Vatican as “Don Carrado.” Cardinal Krajewski said, “I asked the construction company to let the homeless workers do the renovation. They agreed a bit hesitantly but then they were so happy with their work, they decided to hire those people. The owner of the company said that they rarely see people who would work so hard.”
Cardinal Krajewski is particularly proud of the chapel - the pope donated an Armenian mosaic of the poor which has been put on the left side of the altar. Employees of the Vatican also brought a gift to the homeless - the specially framed medal of Our Lady of Confidence.
“It is a matter of starting the snowball of good—those people working in the Vatican came to me and said we framed this beautiful medal for the poor—a few years ago they were not going out with initiatives like that and now you can really see for yourself how the good started to spread,” the cardinal said.
The dormitories will occupy the top two floors and will be able to accommodate up to 50 people, both men and women. More might be able to be accommodated during winter emergencies. The management of the place is in the hands of the Sant’Egidio Community, the Rome-based Catholic lay movement famous for its peace initiatives and working for the poor.
“In the kitchen we will prepare breakfasts and dinners for people staying in the refuge but also meals for those whom we serve at Tiburtina and Termini stations,” the cardinal said. In fact, the meal preparations have already begun, with volunteers cooking meals every Tuesday and Thursday for over 250 homeless and needy at Rome’s train stations.
The polish cardinal said that we need to help the poor in a rich and generous way. “Jesus said we need to be like a father who is giving all his wealth to the prodigal son, even if everyone else is protesting, including the younger son.”