Just over two weeks after the controversial opening of a McDonald’s in a Vatican-owned building just outside St. Peter’s Square, on January 16th the popular fast food chain started to distribute some 1,000 free meals to the homeless from here. Ironically, this “act of charity” had been proposed only a few days after Rome’s TAR (Regional Administrative Tribunal) rejected CODACONS’s (a consumer protection association) legal action to close this McDonald’s.
Collaborating with McDonald’s change of heart are volunteers of Medicina Solidale, which provides free medical care to the homeless (“about 200 people per week”, according to its director Lucia Ercoli), and Polish Archbishop Konrad Krajewki, the Apostolic Almoner, Pope Francis’s person in charge of helping the needy. “The program is the beginning of a dialog with McDonald’s which will expand in the future,” assured Dottoressa Ercoli. For now it will take place every Monday for ten weeks at lunchtime. The “Good Samaritan” meal consists of a double-cheeseburger, fresh apple slices, and a bottle of water. This gesture is the latest of several new papal initiatives to make life for Rome’s homeless a little more comfortable. Others include thermal sleeping bags against Rome’s unusually cold winter, hot showers, public latrines and haircuts by volunteer barbers, also only on Mondays, under Bernini’s colonnade just a stone’s throw from McDonald’s.
Is McDonald’s sincerely repenting? If so, why only on Monday and why for only ten weeks? The donation of c. 4,000 cheeseburgers a month seems pretty skimpy against the c. 65,000 needed to be sold just to cover 30,000 euros a month rent.

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