Vatican to install showers for homeless at St Peter's Square

Pope Francis commissions washing facilities for homeless under St Peter's colonnades

Pope Francis has ordered the installation of showers for the homeless under the colonnades of St Peter's Square after hearing about a homeless man who declared himself too smelly to eat in a restaurant.

The public toilets for visitors to St Peter's will soon be upgraded to include showering facilities for the homeless, with ten parishes across Rome doing the same.

The pontiff gave his blessing to the initiative after being moved by a story from the Polish archbishop Konrad Krajewski, who serves as the Papal Almoner – the pope's person in charge of delivering charity to the poor. Krajewski came up with the idea following a chance meeting with a homeless man on Via della Conciliazione in front of St Peter's Square about a month ago.

The Sardinian man had been living rough for a decade and when the bishop heard that it was his 50th birthday he offered to buy him dinner in a restaurant. However the homeless man declined initially, saying "...But I smell." The bishop convinced him to join him for a meal in a Chinese restaurant where the man explained that while there were plenty of facilities for feeding the poor in Rome, it was much harder for homeless people to stay clean in the capital.

Now a construction firm has volunteered to install the showers in the parishes free of charge while the Vatican is being assisted in its services to the homeless by a “substantial donation” from the charitable foundation established by popular Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.