Shortly after 7 p.m. yesterday, the Holy Father visited the newly-inaugurated dormitory for the homeless, just blocks from St. Peter’s Square on Via dei Penitenzieri. The building was provided by the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, the Order to which Pope Francis belongs, and is managed by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. Volunteers also work here and all this is under the auspices of the Office of the Apostolic Almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski.

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Perhaps those of outside the synod hall last night at 7 when Pope Francis exited, visited with some of the prelates and then got into his car, should have suspected something was up. That all sounds fairly normal, but to be honest, Pope Francis usually walks back to the Santa Marta after a synod session as this residence is only a couple hundred yards from the Paul VI Hall. In addition, I thought the car seemed to be heading, not in the direction of the Santa Marta but outside the Vatican.

The Pope was welcomed by Abp. Krajewski, Fr. Adolfo Nicolàs, Jesuit superior general, Fr. Joachin Barrero, superior of the nearby community of the Jesuit generalate, three Sisters of Mother Teresa and several volunteers.

He personally greeted each of the 30 guests as they gathered in the common room and then, as the Pope visited the structure, they stayed near their beds. Francis stayed about 30 minutes, according to a Vatican account, and seemed visibly moved and delighted by the encounter.


The dormitory, inaugurated October 7, is named “Gift of Mercy” because – as Abp- Krajewski explained at the time – it is a ‘gift’ from the Society of Jesus and ‘mercy’ is love’s second name.” He also said it’s the community’s way of responding to Pope Francis’ appeal to religious institutions to offer buildings to be placed in the service of the needy and those in difficulty.

We learned that the dormitory can host up to 34 men a night and that there are specific regulations in place to make sure the dormitory runs smoothly. The nuns interview, admit and register those seeking shelter who can stay for a maximum of 30 days; guests can arrive each day between 6 and 7pm; then lights-out, rest and wake-up at 6.15am in time for personal hygiene, bed-making and tidying up. The dorm shuts at 8am for cleaning.

Also run by the Missionaries of Charity and financed by the Papal Office of Charities, is the “Gift of Mary,” a dormitory near the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that has offered shelter to homeless women since 1988.