The founder of Boys' Towns of Italy, Mgr John Patrick Carroll-Abbing, died on Monday, in the Rome community he founded. He was 88. Fr John was an Irish priest who had lived in Italy since 1930, when he went to Rome to study for the priesthood. Ordained when he was 23, he entered the Vatican diplomatic service in 1937. In 1944 he was sent by the Vatican to help evacuate Polish nuns from the war area, and found thousands of refugees living in caves on the Anzio and Cassino fronts. With the approval of the Pope, and help from a group of teenagers - he organized a series of aid projects in Rome and along the battle areas. They helped refugees, the Jewish victims of persecution, and escaped American and Allied prisoners of war. When World War II ended, he got permission from Pope Pius XII to leave the diplomatic service and concentrate on work with refugees of all ages. He also set up more than 40 shelters - he called them "shoestring hotels" - providing emergency homes for Roman street children. And he began establishing the first of what eventually became nine Boys' Towns - providing accommodation, education and job training in a community atmosphere for hundreds of children who had lost their parents. Fifty years' on, the modern 'Girls and Boys Towns' carry on Fr John's work in Italy and the USA, catering for smaller groups of children in more family-style houses. The Towns also offer a range of other services to children from deprived backgrounds. Besides his work with young people, Fr John wrote several books, including "A Chance to Live," about children of the war and the founding of Boys Towns in Italy and a novel, "Journey to Somewhere."
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