ROME - Italy's deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini criticized the Vatican on Monday after Pope Francis' almsgiver, Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, restored electricity for hundreds of homeless people living in an illegally occupied building in Rome. The building had been without power due to a dispute over unpaid bills.
More than 400 homeless people illegally occupying a building in Rome had been living without electricity since May 6 when the Italian power company decided to discontinue the service due to lack of payment. The overdue electricity bills amounted to about $325,000.
Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski decided to put an end to the situation and went down a manhole over the weekend where he flipped a power switch in a "desperate gesture" to restore electricity for the occupants living in the unused state-owned building.
Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, leader of the far right League party, strongly criticized the move, saying lots of Italians and legally resident immigrants pay their bills, even if they are in difficulty.
He said, "Supporting illegal conduct is never a good signal," adding that, "If the people in the Vatican want to pay the bills of all Italians in hardship, we can provide them with a bank account."
A volunteer who works with the homeless, Sister Adriana Domenici, said after the building's electricity was cut off, she called the cardinal for help.
She said Salvini should "come here to the building and listen to the people living here and see the people who are sick" adding the majority of those who are in the building are Italian.
The volunteer added that when utility workers returned to disconnect power again after the papal aid had restored it, they found a note from Cardinal Krajewski and left the electricity running.
The cardinal has said he is unrepentant about the move, saying he did it for the children living in the building. "I assume all the responsibility", he said, adding that he did not need to provide explanations and that from now on he would foot the bills.