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McDonald’s has been accused of pulling a PR stunt that exploits homeless people to win over those who objected to their newly opened restaurant within steps of the Vatican.
The new branch of the burger chain in Rome has pledged 1,000 meals to homeless people. However, a community group called Safeguard the Borgo said the offer was one that “cynically uses the homeless and offends many years and daily work [done by others] to help alleviate extreme poverty”.
The US fast-food chain revealed the plan after a handful of cardinals, as well as the Borgo group, complained last year that opening a McDonald’s so close to St Peter’s Square was not fitting in the Unesco-protected neighbourhood.
The restaurant opened on 30 December and according to new agency Reuters, gave away 50 meals on the first Monday of the year. The meal consisted of a double cheeseburger, an apple and water, and will only be on offer for six months. Reuters reported that it was the idea of another charity, Medicina Solidale, whose director wrote to McDonald’s in the wake of the criticism over the restaurant opening.
In September last year Pope Francis offered 1,500 homeless people a pizza lunch at the Vatican after Mother Teresa’s canonisation mass.