Pope Francis has commissioned a new clinic in St Peters Square which offers free medical help in his latest move to help Rome's destitute.
The Rome Catholic charity Caritas estimated last year that there are more than 16,000 homeless in Rome and their number congregating near the Vatican has grown in recent years, especially at night when they cluster under arcades to sleep.
The new clinic with three visiting rooms will be open three days a week and will be staffed by volunteer doctors from the Vatican medical services and Rome hospitals.
Charities say homeless people suffer particularly from foot ailments because they rarely remove their socks and shoes, and also wear ill-fitting shoes.
These conditions mean that they can often suffer from ailments such as fungal infections, blisters and calluses. A foot doctor will be on site once a week.
The new clinic replaces an older temporary one nearby, also set up by Pope Francis, who has also opened facilities where the homeless can bathe and get haircuts.
When it is not serving the homeless, the new clinic, built on the premises of the old Vatican post office, will serve as a first aid station for pilgrims and tourists.
This comes after Pope Francis vowed the Catholic Church will never again ignore allegations of sexual abuse and called on guilty priests to turn themselves in and face justice.
A litany of child sexual abuse scandals has rocked the Church for decades, with the pope as recently as Wednesday accepting the resignation of a US bishop over 'misconduct' with a minor.
'To those who abuse minors I would say this: convert and hand yourself over to human justice, and prepare for divine justice,' the pope said in his annual address to the Church's governing Curia at the Vatican on Friday.
He also added that he is determined to bring all guilty priests to justice.
'The Church will never seek to hush up or not take seriously any case,' he said.
'Let it be clear that before these abominations the Church will spare no effort to do all that is necessary to bring to justice whosoever has committed such crimes'.
The pope continued: 'It is undeniable that some in the past, out of irresponsibility, disbelief, lack of training, inexperience, or spiritual and human short-sightedness, treated many cases without the seriousness and promptness that was due.'
He said emphatically: 'That must never happen again. This is the choice and the decision of the whole Church.'
Francis has struggled to resolve the problem as the steady drip of scandal corrodes the church's authority but fresh cases surface regularly against a background of sharp divisions in Rome over the issue.
The pope last week removed two prominent cardinals from his inner circle months after they were tainted by paedophile scandals and ahead of a Church-wide meeting on the 'protection of minors' next year.
Australian Cardinal George Pell and Chilean Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz were both removed from the so-called C9 Council of Cardinals, an international advice body set up by Francis himself, the Vatican said on December 12.
The last time the C9 met in September, Errazuriz, who is accused of ignoring reports of abuse in Chile, and Pell, who faces charges in Australia related to historical child sexual offences, were both absent, and the council said it was considering restructuring.
Despite being removed from the C9, Pell, 77, remains in charge of Vatican finances, the third most powerful position in the Roman Catholic Church.
The Church has been hit by a series of child abuse scandals in recent years, with widespread allegations of cover-ups, including against the pope himself.
The pope told the Curia on Friday that there were still 'consecrated men... who abuse the vulnerable, taking advantage of their position and their power of persuasion.'
'They perform abominable acts yet continue to exercise their ministry as if nothing had happened. They have no fear of God or his judgement, but only of being found out and unmasked.'
'Often behind their boundless amiability, impeccable activity and angelic faces, they shamelessly conceal a vicious wolf ready to devour innocent souls.'
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.