Vatican City, 22 December 2013 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon the Holy Father visited the patients of the Bambin Gesu Paediatric Hospital, situated on the Roman Janiculum Hill. Part of the patrimony of the Holy See, it is the largest paediatric hospital and paediatric research centre in Europe. It employs almost 2,600 staff, including doctors, researchers, nurses, hospital technicians and other employees. Each year more than a million patients are treated in clinic, and it manages 27 thousand hospitalisations, 25 thousand surgical procedures, and 71 thousand emergency room cases.
Italy's first paediatric hospital, it was founded in 1869 upon the initiative of the Salviati dukes and donated to the Holy See in 1924. It is commonly known to families as “the Pope's hospital”, and Pope Francis' visit follows a tradition dear to his predecessors, inaugurated by Pope John XXIII at Christmas 1958.
Four thousand people awaited the arrival of the Holy Father, accompanied by Archbishop Pietro Parolin, secretary of State, and his predecessor Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B. The Pope spent three hours with the children and their families, and chose not to deliver the address he had prepared in favour of spending more time with the young patients and visiting all the departments in the hospital, such as neonatal intensive care, reanimation and nephrology.
Shortly before 5 p.m. the Pope arrived at the chapel where around thirty children affected with cancer were gathered with their relatives. A basket had been placed in the chapel, containing pieces of paper upon which the patients in the hospital had written their “dreams and prayers”.
“Dear children, thank you for the dreams and your prayers you have gathered in this basket and offered to me”, said the Holy Father. “Many thanks. We will present them together to Jesus; He knows them best of all. He knows what resides in the depths of our hearts. Jesus has a special bond with you children in particular, and He is always close to you. Now, let us pray together to Our Lady before this beautiful statue of the Virgin with Jesus”.
After praying the “Hail Mary”, the Pope blessed all those present and, instead of pronouncing the planned address, continued his visit of the hospital, stopping to speak to all those who crowded the rooms and hallways. He also spoke with the parents of the group “Children in Heaven”, who have lost their young sons and daughters. One of the mothers gave the Pope a figure of an angel in memory of those children, and the president of the Bambin Gesu Hospital, Giuseppe Profitti, dedicated to the Bishop of Rome a new structure, a project for the assistance of mothers and children in difficulty, organised in collaboration with the diocesan branch of Caritas.