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Pope opens free launderette for Rome's homeless people


Pope Francis has opened a free launderette in Rome in the latest of a series of initiatives aimed at poor people that has included help with housing, showers, haircuts, meals and medical care.
Six washing machines and dryers were donated to the facility in the city centre. Detergent, fabric softener and a number of irons have also been provided.
The Lavanderia di Papa Francesco (Pope Francis Laundry) intended to “restore dignity to many people who are our brothers and sisters”, the Vatican said. It is designed to serve “the poorest people, particularly the homeless, who will be able to wash, dry and iron their clothes and blankets”.
The launderette, located in a former hospital near the Vatican, is run by the Community of Sant’Egidio. Showers, a barbershop and medical facilities will also be added.
Two years ago, Francis opened a shower and barber service next to St Peter’s Basilica and a dormitory nearby. On his 78th birthday two years ago, the pope distributed hundreds of sleeping bags to homeless people in Rome.
The pontiff has made people on the margins of society a central focus of his papacy, calling for Catholic clergy and congregations to help homeless people and refugees.
He has provided homes for several refugee families in the Vatican. Last week, three Syrian families replaced those brought by Francis from the Greek island of Lesbos a year ago. They have since moved out of the Vatican apartments to live independently.
Pope Francis has breakfast with homeless people as part of his 80th birthday celebrations.
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 Pope Francis has breakfast with homeless people as part of his 80th birthday celebrations. Photograph: Osservatore Romano/AP
At the canonisation of Mother Teresa last September, the pope invited 1,500 homeless people to Rome to be given seats of honour and a free pizza lunch.
On Maundy Thursday this week, Francis will wash the feet of prisoners in Paliano, south of Rome. Last year, he washed the feet of refugees, including Muslims, Hindus and Coptic Orthodox men and women at a centre for asylum seekers.
On Monday, the Vatican Museums said people who make a blood donation at Rome’s Gemelli university hospital will be offered cut-price tickets to the galleries housing famous works of art including Michelangelo’s painted ceiling in the Sistine Chapel.

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