Neapolitan "Shoeshine boys" in 1944 Neapolitan "Shoeshine boys" in 1944 

When the 'shoeshine' boys sped up the 'Scala Regia'

Pope Francis on Monday received in audience a group of supporters and friends of the organization “A Chance in Life”. The foundation runs what are known as Boys’ and Girls’ Towns all over the world. As this Vatican Radio Archive Programme narrates, the first "Boys' Town" was founded in Rome by Irish priest, Monsignor Carroll-Abbing to provide WW2 orphans with a home and an education.

By Veronica Scarisbrick

Today we see children escaping from war. And in a media savvy world the images of these little ones fleeing from death and destruction reach us in real time in our homes. Little ones who are victims of what Pope Francis has often described as a ‘Third World War’ in his endless appeals for peace which seem to fall on deaf ears.

Sadly history repeats itself. As you’ll hear in this programme the appeals for peace of the Pope of the ‘Second World War’, Pius XII also fell on deaf ears. But while in pre- media savvy days the images of death and destruction hardly reached anyone there were still plenty of children victims of that war.

Listen to Vatican Radio archive recordings in English of Pius XII and of the late Monsignor Carroll- Abbing

Listen to Vatican Radio archive recordings in English of Pius XII and of the late Monsignor Carroll- Abbing in a programme presented and produced by Veronica Scarisbrick:

On one memorable occasion in the immediate aftermath of the war Pius XII received some of these ‘orphans of the war’ inside the Apostolic Palace. It was the 10th of October 1945 when over two thousand ‘sciuscià’, or ‘shoeshine boys’, some barefoot, rushed up the ‘Scala Regia’ of the Apostolic Palace. Little ones who bore in their undernourished bodies and their old men and women’s ways the imprint of war. 

And when Pius XII spoke to them he used simple words acknowledging how their experience of life had been marked by so much misery and sadness. Many of you, he went on to say: “Have never even known your parents having lost them under the bombs”. 

Fortunately for those children the future held in store a safe haven through the work of the man accompanying him, an Irishman by the name of Carroll- Abbing. A Monsignor who established ‘Boy’s Town of Italy’ for children made homeless by the war, like those received by Pope Pius XII in the Apostolic Palace. 


09 December 2019, 13:50