The first washing machines and tumble dryers for the homeless in Rome whirred into action on Monday as the ‘Pope Francis’ Laundry’ opened its doors to provide a much needed service.
One of the many difficulties for those who live on the streets is to be able to wash, dry and iron their clothes and blankets, and the Vatican-sponsored laundry is a response to Pope Francis’s invitation to give concrete signs of solidarity to our brothers and sisters in need.
A communiqué released by the Apostolic Almoner quotes from the Pope’s Apostolic Letter, Misericordia et misera, at the conclusion of the Jubilee Year of Mercy: “The desire for closeness to Christ requires us to draw near to our brothers and sisters, for nothing is more pleasing to the Father than a true sign of mercy. By its very nature, mercy becomes visible and tangible in specific acts.”
So, Papal Almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski noted: “Here is a concrete sign wanted by the office of Papal Charities: a place and a service to give concrete form to charity to restore dignity to so many people who are our brothers and sisters and who are called, with us, to build a city we can trust”.
Pope Francis’ Office of Papal Charities has already set up showers, a barber shop, a dormitory, a healthcare clinic and a pharmacy for the poor in the eternal city. What was missing, until now, was a laundry service, an urgent need indeed as Krajewski explained: “One of the greatest difficulties for those who live on the streets, along with that of finding food, a place to spend the night and public baths, is to wash and dry the clothes they wear, in many cases the only ones they own”.
The laundry room is located at the “People of Peace Center” run by the Sant’Egidio Community at the old hospital complex of San Gallicano, in the central Trastevere area of Rome.
The laundry boasts six, latest generation washers and six dryers along with several irons donated by the Whirlpool Corporation.
Other commercial detergent producers ensure the full and free supply of soap powder and fabric softener.