As part of his Friday of Mercy initiative Pope Francis opened a “palace for the poor,” a shelter for homeless people near Saint Peter’s Square.
Just feet away from the colonnades of Saint Peters’ Square, the four story building used to be used by a female religious congregation until it was vacated and given to the papal almoner Cardinal Konrad Krajewski.
Built in the 1800s, the Palazzo Migliori, “Palace of the Best,” retained its name when Pope Francis personally directed Krajewski to turn into a place where the homeless and poor of Rome can sleep, eat, and learn.
“We decided to keep the historical name of the place. The name is Palazzo Migliori – it is the name of the family that owned it before 1930 and sold it to the Vatican, but it also translates in Italian to ‘the Palace of the Best’ – and indeed considering who will stay here, it is exactly the case. You have an impression that it is for the princes, and indeed it is.”
The upper two floors of the “palace” are dormitories where around 50 men and women can sleep, with more space available during the cold of Roman winter. Guests are offered meals in the dining hall on the second floor. The bottom two floors provide an educational space for volunteers to teach those in need to use the computer. There is also space for reading, recreation, and counseling.
Krajewski asked the construction company to hire the homeless to work during the renovations, who called the amount of work they did in such a short amount of time “miraculous” so much so the company permanently hired them.
“I asked a construction company to let the homeless workers do the renovation. They agreed a bit hesitantly but then they were so happy with their work, they decided to hire those people – the owner of the company said they rarely see people who would work so hard.”
Krajewski is particularly proud of the chapel, which houses an Armenian mosaic of the poor donated by Pope Francis which has been put on the left side of the altar. Employees of the Vatican also brought a gift to the homeless – a framed medal of Our Lady of Confidence.
“It is a matter of starting the snowball of good – those people working in the Vatican came to me and said we framed this beautiful medal for the poor – a few years ago they were not going out with initiatives like that and now you can really see for yourself how the good started to spread.”