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Pope Francis makes secret stop at new dorms for Rome’s homeless

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After last night’s synod session Pope Francis didn’t go back to his residence at the St. Martha house as usual, but instead decided to pop by the Vatican’s new dormitory for homeless men.

According to an Oct. 16 communique from the Vatican, the Pope left for the dormitory shortly after the synod’s evening session yesterday closed at 7 p.m., taking off in his Fiat.

Located around the corner from the Vatican on Via dei Penitenzieri, the new shelter is called the “Gift of Mercy” house, and was inaugurated during a private Oct. 7 ceremony with a blessing and Mass with the dorm’s first guests and volunteers in attendance, celebrated by Papal Almoner Archbishop Krajewski.

Furnished by the Papal Office of Charities and donations, the dorm is run by sisters from Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, and was established with the help of the Jesuits.
Upon his arrival, Pope Francis was greeted by Archbishop Krajewski; the head of the Office of Papal Charities Msgr. Diego Ravelli; the Superior General of the Jesuits Fr. Adolfo Nicolás; Fr. Joachin Barrero, superior of The General Curia Community; three of Mother Theresa’s sisters and some volunteers who manage the new structure.

Francis greeted each of the shelter’s 30 guests individually in the common area before following them to the dormitory, visiting both their beds and other service areas, including, apparently, the laundry room, according to photos from the event.

The Vatican’s communique noted that as the Pope greeted them for roughly 20 minutes, the guests were “visibly moved and happy with his visit.”

With enough space to house 34 men, the shelter brings the Vatican’s total capacity for housing the homeless up to 84.

Besides the “Gift of Mercy” house, the Missionaries of Charity also run the “Gift of Mary” home in the Vatican, a homeless shelter for women established by Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa in the late 1980s.
As part of their stay at the “Gift of Mercy” house, the men are invited to enjoy dinner every night at the “Gift of Mary” shelter, which houses 50 beds for women.

The sisters register each guest as they arrive between 6-7 p.m. Soon after, it’s lights out, with a wake-up call at 6:15 a.m. After time for bed-making and personal hygiene, the dorm closes at 8 a.m. to give the sisters a chance to clean before the next night.

The new dorm is the latest in a string of charitable initiatives launched through the Papal Charities. Earlier this year, Pope Francis established showers, bathrooms and a barber shop inside the Vatican to serve the homeless population.

By Elise Harris


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