The city of Rome has backtracked on its plan to claim the coins chucked in the Trevi Fountain. The plan, which came to light in November 2017, would have broken a longstanding agreement with the Catholic charity Caritas that sees them receive a sizeable donation of around €1.4 million a year. Now, local government, headed by Virginia Raggi of the populist Five Star Movement, has decided Caritas can continue to use the funds to help the homeless – for now, at least.
Rather than dropping the proposal completely, the administration has simply postponed it to allow time for a new distribution of funds to be studied. Originally, control of the coins was slated to transfer from Caritas to local government on 1 April, however a seemingly last-minute decision sees the switch delayed until 31 December.
A spokesperson from the cash-strapped council (the city faces debts of €13.6 million) said, ‘We want to give space to other voluntary groups in Rome so a ‘study group’, composed of experts from within the administration, will be created’.
Italian daily newspaper, the Corriere della Sera, reported that Caritas responded to the decision with ‘perplexity’ while other media outlets focused on the group’s commitment to continuing to assist Rome’s most disadvantaged citizens, even if this revenue stream will dry up at the end of the year.
Msgr. Enrico Feroci, director of Caritas Rome, said that entrusting the money to the charitable organisation ‘concretely expresses the solidarity of the whole city of Rome toward those who suffer and are disadvantaged.’
Each year Caritas assists thousands of Romans and foreigners who find themselves in difficulty in the capital – offering food, beds, healthcare, training courses and support to find work. Feroci highlighted the charity’s long history of ‘reaching out and encountering the most diverse forms of poverty,’ particularly among the homeless, elderly, migrants and struggling families.
‘Responsibility, transparency, a spirit of service and witness: These are the attitudes that have guided us in these years in which the city of Rome has entrusted the proceeds of the Trevi Fountain coins to Caritas,’ Feroci said.
‘This is the spirit with which Caritas will continue the management of the Trevi Fountain coins.’ He also credited the millions of tourists who toss the coins as being ‘protagonists of change’ for the city’s poor.
Caritas was founded in 1971 and since 2004 the Roman branch of the organisation has received the coins, which are sucked up out of the Trevi Fountain every day using a giant vacuum.