Pope Francis reportedly is working on plans to build showers for homeless men and women in Vatican City, his latest move to change the public's expectations of the Catholic Church and to ease some residents' suffering.
The pope's chief alms-giver, Monsignor Konrad Krajewski, told The Associated Press that three showers will be installed in the public restrooms in St. Peter's Square, the plaza directly in front of St. Peter's Basilica, to help individuals who are homeless. The idea allegedly stemmed from Krajewski's encounter with a homeless man who declined the charity provider's offer to celebrate his 50th birthday at a restaurant because of his odor.
Francis, the first Jesuit to assume the role of pontiff, succeeded Pope Benedict XVI last year and promised to change the ways the Vatican conducts business. He has broken with his predecessors several times, saying the church cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptives, and asking, "Who am I to judge?" in response to reports of gay clergy members. The Catholic leader was named "Person of the Year" last year by TIME magazine. He even posed for a selfie with youths during a meeting in St. Peter's Basilica last year.
On Thursday, Francis warned leaders preparing to gather at the G20 Leaders' Summit this weekend against unchecked consumerism that can damage the planet. In a letter he sent to Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, chair of the upcoming conference, the pope pointed out that people around the world are unemployed and suffering from malnutrition.
"I would ask the G20 heads of state and government not to forget that many lives are at stake behind these political and technical discussions, and it would indeed be regrettable if such discussions were to remain purely on the level of declarations of principle," he wrote. "There are constant assaults on the natural environment, the result of unbridled consumerism, and this will have serious consequences for the world economy."
In an unprecedented move, Francis last week demoted the highest-ranking American at the Vatican. Cardinal Raymond Burke was removed from the church's highest court to become the chaplain of the Knights of Malta, a Vatican charity group, after he vocally opposed the religious establishment's recent progressive moves. His new position holds almost no responsibilities.
In October, Francis made a significant rhetorical break with Catholic tradition by declaring that the theories of evolution and the Big Bang are real, and remarking that God is not "a magician with a magic wand." He explained that both evolution and the Big Bang are not incompatible with the existence of God. In fact, he said, they "require it."