CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 June 2019

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Caritas will still get the coins in the fountain

ROME (Agencies): After weeks of confusion and consternation, Virginia Raggi, the mayor of Rome, told L’Osservatore Romano that Caritas Rome would continue to benefit not only from the coins tourists throw in the Trevi Fountain, but from coins tossed in any of the city’s historic water features.
 
The charity had been informed in late December that it would no longer receive the coins that tourists toss over their shoulder into the famed Baroque era fountain, a ritual that is supposed to guarantee a return to the city, CNS reported.
 
For nearly two decades, the city periodically emptied the fountain, which was designed by Nicola Salvi in 1730, finished by Giuseppe Panini in 1762 and inaugurated by Pope Clement XIII, collected and bagged the coins and, in the presence of Rome’s police, handed them over to Caritas Rome.
 
However, ABC News reported on January 15 that a leaked document suggested that the city’s administration may have wanted to keep those coins for the city’s empty coffers causing confusion and concern among many of Caritas’ supporters.
 
Raggi, who faced outrage on social media, claimed it was all a misunderstanding. The city needs to ensure an accurate count of the money, so instead of having Caritas volunteers sort and count the coins, the city will entrust that to ACEA, the city utility responsible for cleaning and maintaining the fountain.
 
In 2018, collection of coins added up to about €1.5 million or about HK$13.5 million, a significant portion of Caritas Rome’s budget for funding homeless shelters, soup kitchens and parish-based services to families in difficulty.
 
“No one ever thought about depriving Caritas of these funds,” Raggi told L’Osservatore Romano, on January 14. She added, “The diocesan agency plays an important role for many needy and for the city of Rome, which wants to continue to be the capital of welcome for the weakest.”
 
Although the city council has been threatening since October 2017 to use the money for its own projects, Raggi said the decision reached in December was simply “an administrative act responding to the need to collect and quantify the coins tourist throw not only into the Trevi Fountain but into the other monumental fountains of Rome.”
 
She said ACEA counting the money would bring “order and transparency” to the process and that expanding the collection to other fountains will bring more money to Caritas.
 
Father Benoni Ambarus, director of Caritas Rome, told Vatican News on January 12, “The first thing I want to say is thank you to the millions of tourists who created a sea of solidarity with their coins.”
 
He was, at that point, still hoping something would change before the change dried up in April. The city council had voted in October 2017 to start keeping the money in city coffers, but after a public outcry, the agreement with Caritas was extended to April 2018 and again to 31 December 2018.

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