In his latest bid to ease the suffering of the poor — and upend the expectations of the papacy — Pope Francis plans to build showers for the homeless under the sweeping white colonnade of St. Peter’s Square.
Three showers are to be built into refurbished public restrooms provided for Catholic pilgrims along the marble columns leading into the historic basilica, which was completed in 1626.
The Vatican’s deputy spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, said that the project was a joint initiative of the pope and Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner who distributes charity on the pope’s behalf. Construction is due to begin next week.
It’s an unconventional move, even for a pope who constantly preaches that more should be done to help the poor. It also could rankle traditionalists as the homeless line up to wash beneath the extravagant apostolic apartments that Francis shunned after his election.