VATICAN CITY — In addition to handing out food, umbrellas, sleeping bags, showers and haircuts, the Vatican is now offering Rome’s homeless the gift of beauty.
On Thursday afternoon, 150 homeless persons will receive a special ticket for the Vatican Museums, given by the office for papal charities. They will then be divided into three separate groups with a guide, Vatican Insider reports.
Before heading into the museums, the homeless guests will also receive a tour of Vatican city state, where they will pass by the Pope’s residence in the St. Martha guesthouse.
After making a first stop at the Carriage Pavilion, the groups will go on to the Upper Galleries — including the Gallery of the Candelabra and the Gallery of Maps — before visiting the apartment of Pope Pius V and finally the Sistine Chapel itself.
The chapel will be closed to the public during the day in order to prepare for guests that evening.
The homeless will have the opportunity to see and take in Michelangelo’s famous frescoes before pausing for a moment of prayer inside the chapel, which is traditionally where new popes are elected.
Guests will then head to the Vatican Museums’ restaurant, where they will be offered dinner.
In addition to having custodians help them carry their personal belongings — including backpacks, knapsacks, carts and even dogs — the homeless persons will also be offered headphones to use throughout their guided tour.
An initiative of papal almoner Archbishop Konrad Kraiewski, the visit is designed to show the city’s homeless population not just the beauty from outside the colonnades of St. Peter’s Basilica, but also the beauty within, which belongs to everyone, including those who have met misfortune and are living in poverty.
The initiative is the latest in a string of charitable initiatives enacted by the almoner on behalf of Pope Francis since his election two years ago.
In November of last year, Archbishop Kraiewski met a homeless man who said that although a sandwich was easy to find in Rome, a way to keep clean was not. As a result, the archbishop had the public bathrooms in St. Peter’s Square remodeled to include showers and clean underclothes for those in need.
Completed in February of this year, the bathroom initiative rolled out alongside a haircut service for the homeless, who receive the free services on Mondays, when many other barbershops are closed, at the hands of volunteer stylists.
A string of other charitable events include the December distribution of sleeping bags for the homeless, coinciding with the Pope’s birthday, as well as the handing out of 300 umbrellas to those living on the streets during Rome’s rainy month of February.
Pope Francis on Sunday commissioned 400 of Rome’s homeless residents to assist him in distributing a pocket-sized book of the Gospels to the faithful who had gathered for his weekly Angelus prayer, saying to receive the word of God from their hands was a reminder that it is the poor who preach the Gospel to us.
In addition to offering lunch to the homeless who helped in the square on Sunday, the Pope’s almoner also helped to deliver 1,000 pounds of food to the poor in Rome’s Tor Bella Monaca neighborhood with the help of the Institute of Medicine Solidarity Onlus.
Pope Francis had been in the neighborhood March 8 for his visit to the parish of Santa Maria Madre del Redentore. Archbishop Krajewski was scheduled to deliver the food on March 21.