By Susan Gately - 19 May, 2018
The Holy See has confirmed that Pope Francis will visit Dublin’s Capuchin Day Centre in August as part of his visit to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families 2018.
Brother Kevin Crowley from the Centre told CatholicIreland that the visit had been “in the pipeline since after Christmas but it has been confirmed”.
Already he has had a number of visits from Vatican officials to make arrangements. He expects the Pope to spend about 30 to 45 minutes at the Centre on Saturday 25 August. “The visit really is for the homeless and the poor people and the families so that’s really what he’s [the Pope] concerned about.”
Yesterday (Friday) he broke the news to some of the hundreds of clients who avail of the centre’s services each day. “I told some of them this morning and they are very excited. They couldn’t believe that the Pope is coming to visit them. These guys, the ones I was talking to, are sleeping on the streets and they’re very excited about it.”
Brother Kevin said some of them probably are Catholic, “but we never ask any questions. The most important thing is that they come here and they’re made to feel that they are part of the Franciscan family and that we look after them with food, without putting all sorts of questions to them.”
The Pope’s visit to the Capuchin Centre will not be the first time Brother Kevin meets Pope Francis. “I met him two years ago. I went to see him, so now he’s coming to see me!” he said.
The Capuchin friar said that numbers attending the centre, which is open from 7.00 a.m. Monday to Saturday, have not “eased off”. Currently, between the morning breakfast and lunch, which is served until 3.00 p.m., they feed between 550 and 600 people every day. Around half are non nationals. In addition, the centre gives out 1,500 to 1,700 food parcels on a Wednesday, and distributes nappies and baby food to around 250 families on Mondays.
“There is always a big number and our main concerns are for the families going into hotels in the evening time and coming in here for their dinner and we give them a takeaway going home. That’s the only food they get in the hotels.”
He is critical of the government policy of housing homeless families in hotels. “It is absolutely appalling that in this day and age we have homeless children and their parents going into hotels and the amount of money that’s being wasted on that. Houses should be built for these people.”
In addition to meals, the Capuchin Day Centre provides medical and dental services – with a doctor on site three days a week, a chiropodist twice a week, a full-time nurse, a dentist twice a week and an optician once a fortnight. All the services are provided for free.
According to Brother Kevin, the centre receives around €450,000 from the government towards its running costs, which in 2017 came in around €3.5 million. Over €3 million comes from voluntary contributions.
Asked what he will say to Pope Francis when he arrives in the door of the Capuchin Day Centre, the friar said he would have to think about it. “I don’t know. I’m delighted of course and I’ll have to thank him for coming here and showing his concern and love for the poor – he always shows it wherever he goes.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the World Meeting of Families has said that only two of the Pope’s engagements had been finalised – his attendance at the Festival of Families in Croke Park on 25 August and the closing mass in the Phoenix park the next day.