March 25, 2015; Vatican Radio

Recently, NPQ addressed the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s hostile treatment of homeless individuals seeking shelter in the church’s doorways with a system that dumped water on them in increments throughout the evening. Thankfully, such actions do not reflect the views and treatment of homeless people by church officials in other communities. 

Instead, the Office of Papal Charities will be opening the doors of the Vatican Museums for 150 homeless individuals in Rome for a guided tour and hosted dinner as the honored guests of Papal Almoner Archbishop Konrad Krajewski. During the event, the guests will be among some of the first to see the newly rearranged Pavilion of the Carriages and will be provided the privilege of a private viewing of the Sistine Chapel. 

In honoring the homeless guests as VIPs, the event at the Vatican Museums helps to counteract the constant negativity and rejection homeless individuals often face when confronted with laws restricting needed services and defensive architecture that turns them away. By welcoming homeless people to a high-profile site and tourist attraction, the Vatican is helping to establish their worth and value as members of the community and not an outside group to be hidden from sight.

Uplifting Rome’s homeless population within the greater community seems to be of particular importance to the Vatican under Pope Francis, who in February unveiled new public bathrooms with access to showers, free toiletry kits and barbershop services

Across the globe in Los Angeles, a criminal court judge has taken his own steps to assist the homeless establish themselves as individuals with futures reaching beyond their present situation. Through a running club based at one of the city’s shelter, Craig Mitchell reaches out to those suffering with homelessness with the everyday activity of jogging. Ryan Navales, one of club’s first members, credits Mitchell and the running club for helping to get his life on the right track. Navales says that Mitchell “saw us for who we are. And he treated us like equals. That was important in those early stages. You know, trying to find some kind of self-worth and some self-confidence and some positive momentum in life.”

Such treatment is essential for events at the Vatican to have lasting and meaningful impact. Many organizations work tirelessly to provide services to assist homeless individuals, but communities must do their part in recognizing the homeless as individuals and welcome members.—Michele Bittner