The disturbing face of urban poverty.
In Rome – as in any other major European city – you meet the only too familiar face of urban poverty in the streets – beggars, people sleeping rough, homeless immigrants, drug addicts, alcoholics. They are part of the urban landscape and treated as such by most passers-by.
What to do? You know that well meaning charity -‘throwing a coin at them’ – is not the answer.
At the entrance to the Basilica di San Pancrazio I bumped into this friendly Polish lady. She told me that she had hit upon hard times and had installed herself right next to the entrance gate to the Basilica. Images of the gospel story of Lazarus and the rich man came to mind as a wedding party entered the gates of the Basilica.
Pope Francis has made people on the margins of society a central focus of his papacy, calling on diocesan clergy and congregations to come to the assistance of the homeless and of refugees.
Two years ago he opened showers and a barber’s service at St Peter’s. And more recently a free lauderette called Lavanderia di Papa Francesco was opened in Rome – run by the Community of Sant’Egidio. It is the latest in a series of initiatives aimed at assisting people on the margins, which include housing, meals and medical care.