SPEECH OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
TO THE COMMUNITY OF THE PEDIATRIC HOSPITAL BABY JESUS OF ROME
Paul VI Hall
Saturday, November 16, 2019
Dear brothers and sisters!
I am happy to meet you as a great family of the "Bambino Gesù" Hospital, to celebrate together the 150th anniversary of the foundation of this worthy Institute belonging to the Holy See, which will never cease to pay great attention to it. I greet you all with affection and I thank the President, Mrs. Mariella Enoc, for her words. I greet the members of the Board of Directors, the doctors, the paramedical and nursing staff, the chaplains, the volunteers, the benefactors; but above all, my greeting goes to the little patients and their families, to all of you.
In her story of the origins, which I will read with other testimonies, the Duchess Maria Grazia Salviati presented us with the birth of the Hospital as intuition and as a gift. Intuition of a woman and a mother of great intelligence, culture and faith: Arabella Salviati, lived in the fruitful season of social Catholicism. It is the gift of a generous family that has made a gesture of immense sensitivity to children around the world. In fact, that initial seed had its development beyond the boundaries of the city of Rome, thanks to its donation to the Pope, whose pastoral concern extends wherever the Church is present. Thus the pediatric hospital has become a patrimony not only of the Roman community, but of the Italian and international.
Thus a great and precious reality was born, avant-garde and still projected towards the future today. I really like the message you have chosen for your anniversary: "The future is a story of children". And being with the children we learn to attend the future, which is a very important attitude. It takes courage to attend the future. The moral authority of sick and suffering children is the truest identity of the "Bambino Gesù" Hospital. This awareness is the engine of your action together, in agreement and with a community spirit, overcoming obstacles and divergences. The moral authority of children can always be a reminder of fidelity to the original vocation of this hospital, and a criterion of discernment for future choices. But we can say, a little simplistically, that they are the ones who command: they are the ones who command our jobs, our thoughts, our research, our actions. The children.
With emotion and gratitude I know of the story of the Venezuelan mother and her son Jerson, who was able to find the care she needed at the "Baby Jesus". I thank the Hospital for its openness to the world, for having decided to take on this suffering and these children from many countries. They told me that more than once a week, helicopters landed in the Vatican heliport carrying children from elsewhere for the "Bambino Gesù". I know well that this requires a lot of economic resources, and I therefore thank those who are generously contributing with their donations to the "Bambino Gesù" Foundation. I hope that international institutions will be able to find ways to promote these health corridors more and more, while waiting for the capacity to respond to basic health needs to grow in each country.
I want to dwell on an expression used by the mother of Venezuela: she wrote about God's blessing and "blessed and wonderful hands" that welcomed and cared for her son. You doctors, surgeons and nurses use your hands as a tool of care. Always be aware of this blessing of God on your hands. Your ability to heal like this is a gift for you and the people entrusted to you. And at the same time, dear doctors and nurses, do not miss your professional contribution and your zeal so that the typicality of this institution is preserved. We need the commitment of everyone because the "Bambino Gesù" Pediatric Hospital continues to show the special predilection of the Holy See for children, with its own style of loving care for the little patients, offering a concrete testimony of the Gospel, in full harmony with what the Church teaches.
I like to bless the hands of doctors and nurses. Now I pause a bit in this talk, which is long. I stop for a while to bless the hands of all the doctors and nurses who are here, and also the hands of the doctors and nurses of the "Baby Jesus". Lord, bless the hands of the doctors and nurses, so that they can help the children on their path of illness and hospitalization to get out of the disease.
The testimony of the nurse, who carried out a long series of training missions in Syria with her colleagues, showed me another aspect of the humanitarian activity of the Hospital and its openness to the world: the willingness to share one's knowledge and their skills with the health personnel of the most disadvantaged countries. It is "the charity of knowledge that builds peace", as Saint John Paul II said (Speech to the Pont. Academy of Sciences, 12 November 1983). It is a question, for you professionals of the "Bambino Gesù", of giving back what has been given to you in abundance and of receiving so much wealth of humanity in return. Everyone teaches something else. This is what happens in these "Baby Jesus" missions abroad.
Your scientific director reported in your paper with great enthusiasm how assistance and research are the cornerstones of the Hospital's activity: the better the research, the better the assistance. There is no cure without research. And there is no future in medicine without research. From this point of view, the "Bambino Gesù" has long been projected into the future, with important results in the field of diagnostics of rare diseases and the treatment of complex diseases, with the development of precision therapies. I admire the passion and enthusiasm that you put into your work of care and research, and I would like you never to lose the ability to see the suffering face of a child even behind a simple sample to be analyzed, and to hear the cry of parents too within your laboratories. The mystery of children's suffering does not stop talking to your consciences and motivating your human and professional commitment. I am reminded of that question, to which it is difficult to find an answer, of the great Dostoevsky: "Why do children suffer?" Always have this question alive: why does a child suffer? There is no answer: only the service to the suffering child and the look to the Father of all, so that he may do something.
Dear brothers and sisters, I am very happy with what I heard this morning, with what I saw, and more generally with the journey made in these years by the "Bambino Gesù". I am delighted with the good performance of the hospital and its constant growth, despite many difficulties, because it is appropriate that in the coming years we can continue to offer every patient the best care, and that no one is refused. This activity requires adequate resources and space. The needs of scientific research and the growing demand for assistance, even from abroad, will make new investments in structures and technologies necessary in the coming years. It is a difficult balance, but it is important that sustainability and efficiency are always guaranteed, because the hospital continues to be an extraordinary work of charity of the Church.
I therefore ask all of you for courageous and rigorous choices that are both generous and prudent. And I urge you to move forward, faithful to the Gospel and obedient to the moral authority of suffering children. For my part, I am especially grateful to you because you are helping the sick little ones to feel the tender and reassuring presence of Jesus next to them. And let's not forget his words: «Everything you did to one of these my little brothers, the "you have done to me" (Mt 25:40). From the whole community of the "Bambino Gesù" Hospital I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing. And please, I ask you not to forget to pray for me.