In an apostolic letter marking the end of that special year in the church calendar, Pope Francis wrote of providing hope for the poor, “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.” Pope Francis, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 80 years old, is the 266th and current Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, a title he holds ex officio as Bishop of Rome, and sovereign of Vatican City. He chose Francis as his papal name to honor Saint Francis of Assisi. Interestingly, Bergoglio worked briefly as a chemical technologist and nightclub bouncer before beginning seminary studies. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1969.
Since he became pope four years ago, Pope Francis has made it a personal priority to provide the impoverished with showers, housing, medical care and other services. The Pope made a controversial move to open showers for the homeless under the sweeping white colonnade of St. Peter’s Basilica in 2015 and also offer them free haircuts, meals and medical assistance on the streets of Rome. Later that year he opened a homeless shelter providing hope to 84 individuals in need of a place to stay. Now, the Pope is continuing his mission by opening a free laundromat, according to the Vatican. He’s calling it “The Pope’s Laundry” and the facility opened this week on April 10th. Six washing machines, six dryers and a number of irons have been donated by the Whirlpool Corporation and Proctor and Gamble are providing the laundry detergent and softener.
“This is a free service offered to the poorest people, in particular to the homeless who can wash, dry and iron their own clothes and blankets,” said the Pope’s chief almsgiver, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, in a statement from the Vatican. “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.” According to Krajewski the laundromat is a service to restore hope and “dignity to many people who are our brothers and sisters.”
The Pope plans to add a few showers, a barber shop and medical services at the location sometime in the near future. The Vatican indicated Pope Francis had wanted to do something following the Jubilee Year of Mercy last year, and decided that the laundromat was very much needed in the Roman neighborhood of Trastevere, not far from the Vatican. The mat was established in an old hospital complex now run by the Community of St. Egidio, a worldwide movement of lay people, based on prayer, solidarity, ecumenism, dialogue founded in 1968 by Andrea Riccardi to promote global evangelization and charity. It will be run by volunteers of the community who will wash, dry and iron the clothes.