Despite an Italian media report on Thursday, a Vatican spokesperson said there has been absolutely no interruption in the free medical services provided to the poor of Rome by clinics affiliated with the Vatican.
“None of our clinics are closed,” Vatican spokesperson Paloma García Ovejero told Crux Thursday. “They remain open and active, and all the poor know it.”
There are two free clinics in Rome operated directly by the Vatican’s Elemosineria Apostolica, the office that administers charity in the name of the pope to the city’s poor. One is located under the colonnade of St. Peter’s Basilica, and the other across town on a major thoroughfare called the Via della Lungara. Both were requested by Pope Francis.
There’s also a third Vatican-affiliated pediatric clinic, called the “Santa Marta” and founded under Pope Pius XI, which provides services for impoverished children and families in the city and is located on Vatican grounds. The pope’s top aide for charity, Polish Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, is the president of the foundation which directs it.
Pope Francis made a visit to that clinic in December 2013. All three remain open and operational.
On Thursday, the Italian news magazine Panorama reported that for “bureaucratic reasons” related to the Region of Lazio, which encompasses Rome, and a local hospital, operations at the pope’s clinics had been suspended in what the story described as a “real and true slap at Pope Francis.”
However, the article appears to confuse the pope’s clinics with the situation surrounding a separate facility in Rome’s Tor Bella Monaca neighborhood, one of the city’s most impoverished areas, which is by run a non-profit Italian health organization called Medicina Solidale, or “Medicine in Solidarity.”
The Panorama piece suggests that the pope’s clinic under the colonnade had been suspended as well, but that’s not the case, García Ovejero said.
Since his election, Pope Francis and Krajewski have made charitable outreach to the poor and homeless of the city of Rome a point of emphasis.
Distribution of free food has been enhanced; showers, laundry and haircut facilities have been installed in and around the Vatican; and Krajewski has even taken groups of homeless persons on day trips to beaches on the Mediterranean Sea outside Rome, allowing them to take a swim and eat a pizza on the pope.
Recently, Krajewski even vacated his Vatican apartment to make way for a refugee couple expecting a baby, and generally sleeps in his office.
All this is in keeping with the marching orders Krajewski said he received from Pope Francis at the beginning of the papacy.
“Sell your desk; you don’t need it,” he said the pope told him at the time. “Don’t wait for people to come ringing. You need to go out and look for the poor.”