Despite a backlash from residents and senior clerics in Rome, a McDonald’s branch opened in the Vatican at the start of the year and has now promised to give out thousands of free meals to the homeless.
The McDonald’s initiative is aimed at defusing the controversy over the opening of the fast food restaurant so close to the Vatican in a building owned by the Holy See in the shadow of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Italian Cardinal Elio Sgreccia said the proposal to open McDonald’s below a Vatican-owned building where several cardinals lived was a “controversial, perverse decision.”
Known as McVatican, the Borgo Pio branch of the fast food chain plans to work with Medicina Solidale, a charity organization that provides medical care and distributes food to homeless people in and around the Vatican.
Lucia Ercoli, the head of Medicina Solidale, said she was “very satisfied with this agreement with McDonald’s,” which has “promptly” accepted their proposal, according to Crux.com.
“Providing a meal guarantees an appropriate supply of proteins and vitamins to so many men and women who live on the street,” said Lucia Ercoli, director of the charity. “I am very happy with this agreement with McDonald’s.”
Volunteers will start distributing food next Monday. They will collect nearly 1,000 meals from the restaurant and give them to homeless people.
“We have been working with the pope’s almoner for a while to provide these people with medical visits and care,” said Polish Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, who provides meals and services on behalf of the pontiff.
The initiative comes right in time, just as Europe is dealing with unexpectedly cold winter weather.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis has called on Krajewski and others to take measures to help the homeless during the cold snap in Rome and other places.
The idea of opening the “McVatican” restaurant was dubbed controversial by some of the cardinals, who said they were not consulted and the restaurant is located too close to a building owned by the Holy See.
As of now, the cafe is open from 6:30am to 11:00pm seven days a week, and Wi-Fi is available there.
The Vatican is to receive a monthly rent of €30,000 for the 538 square-meter space, according to La Repubblica newspaper.