The Vatican is about to look like a Supercuts — for a good reason.
The Holy See's charity office has declared that it will begin offering free haircuts and shaves in St. Peter's Square to the homeless, in addition to the free showers it already provides, the Independent reports. The services begin next month in a rebuilt area under the historic square's colonnade.
Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, Francis' almoner (the church officer in charge of distributing money to the deserving poor) made the announcement in Catholic newspaper Avvenire on Thursday. "The first thing we want is to give dignity to the person," Krajewski said. "The person who does not have a chance to wash a person is socially rejected, and we all know that a homeless man cannot enter a public place like a bar or restaurant to ask to use services, because these are denied him."
The archbishop and the pope see the barbers as a tool for public health as well: "To shower and to wash clothes is not enough," Krajewski said. "You must also be in order with the hair and the beard, to prevent disease. It's another service that a homeless person could hardly get in a normal shop because maybe could raise the fear of giving customers some disease, such as scabies. " According to Krajewski, the pope hopes the service functions "for the common good of the city."
The barbers will volunteer on Mondays, when most salons and barbershops are typically closed in Italy. Everything from the chairs to the scissors and shampoo has been donated.
Francis just keeps on giving. This is the latest charitable move from a pope that has made it a goal of his papacy to revitalize the image of the Roman Catholic Church, moving away from an image as an institution plagued by sex scandals and ruled by distant, inaccessible pontiffs. In November, he announced the building of three showers for the 8,000 homeless people in Rome to use. Francis has been celebrated for his frugality, trading in the papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace for a simple apartment in Vatican City alongside nuns and lesser clergy. He has also called for economic justice as a way to combat rising global wealth inequality.
The U.S. should take note of the pope's actions. In American cities, efforts to criminalize homelessness, instead of providing opportunities to help the poor, are becoming more and more common. Perhaps Francis can remind everyone to see what "compassion" really is.