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By Peter Novecosky, OSB
Abbot Peter NovokoskyVatican offers haircuts

Pope Francis continues to show that little touches can mean a great deal to the homeless.

Recently he gave the go-ahead for barbers to set up shop under the colonnades of St. Peter’s Square so that the homeless can get a decent haircut. This month volunteers will start to shave and trim the hair of those in need. They will offer their services on Mondays, the traditional day barbers have a day off.

All the necessary equipment including razors, hairbrushes, mirrors and an authentic barber’s chair has been donated.

The plans developed after Pope Francis’ official alms-giver reported that a homeless man living near the Vatican turned down a invitation to have dinner with him in a restaurant because he was embarrassed by his smell.

Archbishop Konrad Krajewski met Franco in October. When the archbishop discovered it was the man’s 50th birthday he invited him to a restaurant for dinner. The man declined, saying a restaurant would not let him in because of his odour.

That led to Krajewski announcing that the public restrooms in St. Peter’s Square will include showers where the homeless can wash. He also encouraged parishes in Rome to install public showers for the homeless. 

Krajewski said the initiatives will give greater dignity to the homeless. “The first thing that we want to do is give dignity to people. A person who does not have the opportunity to wash suffers social rejection. A homeless person cannot go into a bar or a restaurant as they will not be served. Having a shower and being able to wash your underwear is not enough. One must also be able to tidy your hair and beard to prevent illness.”

The new Vatican policy first drew public attention in December 2013 when Pope Francis invited three homeless men to have breakfast with him on his 77th birthday. A small dog, belonging to one of the homeless men, was also on the guest list.

One of the men expressed his appreciation. He told the pope, “It’s worthwhile being a vagrant because you get to meet the pope.”

Magna Carta 800 years old

Churches in Britain have begun a campaign to reassert Britain’s Christian heritage on the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta (Great Charter).

The 13th-century document signed by King John enshrined the rights, privileges and liberties of the clergy and nobles. It is considered a founding document for human rights. 

England’s bishops played a major role by acting as the middlemen in a war of interests between King John and his barons and knights. “It could easily have led to civil war,” said Sophie Ambler, a specialist in 13th-century history at the University of East Anglia.

Throughout this year, churches, schools, colleges, universities and libraries will hold exhibitions, lectures and other events about the Magna Carta, emphasizing the way 13th-century Christians influenced its contents.

Ceremonies marking the 800th anniversary will be held throughout the English-speaking world but the highlight will be at Runnymede Meadows where the document was signed. Queen Elizabeth II is expected to attend.

Only four copies of the Magna Carta exist. Its legacy, however, endures in our tradition of liberty and the rule of law.