VATICAN CITY — Pope John Paul II has asked Nobel Peace Prize winner Mother Teresa of Calcutta to establish a 74-bed shelter inside the Vatican for the homeless men and women who often sleep on the steps of Rome's churches.
The Albanian-born nun, whose Missionaries of Charity group operates homes for the poor in India and several other countries, including the United States, said the pontiff personally charged her on May 19 with organizing the project.
Officials said the home will serve "the poorest of the poor."
"We thank the holy father," she told a group at Rome's Church of the Nativity on Sunday. "He has given us a gift, a place in his house where we can welcome the ill and the poor."
Mother Teresa told the Catholic newspaper Il Sabato (The Sabbath) that the 74-bed facility will be built adjacent to the Paul VI audience hall near St. Peter's Basilica. She said she hopes the home will open by next winter.
The facility will include a large dining hall, where members of the Missionaries of Charity would distribute food, especially to the handicapped.