Pope Francis aide restores power for hundreds in occupied Rome building

Evarado Alatorre
May 16, 2019

Back in Rome less than 24 hours after visiting refugees in camps in Greece, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski turned on some lights and found himself being threatened by Italy's deputy prime minister.

On the night of 11 May the Polish cardinal broke a police seal and descended a manhole to restore power to the occupied building, known as Spin Time Labs, whose homeless residents had been without electricity or hot water for a week.

The shelter housed roughly 420 people, including almost 100 minors.

The unpaid electricity bills reportedly amount to 300,000 euros ($337,000). It was a desperate gesture.

The politician of the center-right populist party Lega Nord added at an electoral meeting: "I think you all are making sacrifices to pay your bills; if someone is able to pay the bills of those Italians in difficulty, we are happy". "There were over 400 people without electricity - families, children - without even the chance to run the refrigerators". "And if one arrives, I'll pay a fine as well".

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Vatican sources are quoted in the media as saying that the cardinal acted "in full awareness of the possible legal consequences that he could now face, in the belief that it was necessary to do so for the sake of these families".

Sister Adriana Domenici, who works with the homeless, told Italian broadcaster RaiNews24 that after the building's electricity was cut off May 6, she called Krajewski for help.

Pope Francis has transformed the centuries-old job of Vatican Almoner into a hands-on, door-to-door charitable mission.

Asked if it was true that he personally lifted a manhole cover and climbed down to reconnect the building to the power main, Cardinal Krajewski told the newspaper, Corriere della Sera, "It was a special situation".

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