ROME — After meeting Pope Francis, Donald Trump’s wife, Melania, visited a Vatican-owned children’s hospital, while his daughter, Ivanka, met with victims of human trafficking in an event sponsored by Rome’s Sant’Egidio Community.
Melania was welcomed to the Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital – located a short distance from the Vatican, on the Janiculum Hill – by its president, Mariella Enoc.
During the short visit, the first lady placed flowers at the feet of a Marian statue at the entrance of the facility, before going to the hospital’s pediatric cardiology unit, where she met with patients, some of them awaiting heart transplants.
Afterwards, she joined with 15 child patients from 9 countries – including Iraq – in the hospital’s library for an art session.
Her final stop was at the hospital chapel, where she was accompanied by Maria Grazia Salviati, a member of the board, and descendant of the people who founded the hospital in 1869.
Before leaving, she left a message telling the children “Great visiting you! Stay strong & positive!”
— Bambino Gesù (@bambinogesu) May 24, 2017
The Bambino Gesù hospital is considered the foremost pediatric medical institution in the country, and provides assistance not only to sick children in Italy, but for those from surrounding countries.
In recent years, it has established partnerships with hospitals in the Central African Republic, Jordan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Ethiopia, and the Holy Land.
The first lady had also visited the pediatric ward of Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem on May 22, during the Trumps’ visit to Israel and Palestine. The hospital is noted for caring for both Israeli and Palestinian patients.
While Melania was at the Bambino Gesù hospital, the president’s daughter Ivanka was in Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood, where Sant’Egidio has its headquarters.
The Community of Sant’Egidio is one of the “new movements” in the Catholic Church that have enjoyed their greatest growth in the period following the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), which emphasized the lay role in Catholicism.
Founded in 1968 by Italian layman Andrea Riccardi, a historian and former minister in the Italian government, Sant’Egidio emphasizes service to the poor, conflict resolution, and ecumenical and interfaith dialogue. It’s also long been involved in campaigns against human trafficking, often working with the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.
Ivanka – who serves as a Senior Advisor to her father – discussed peace issues, the situation in Africa, the fight against poverty, and human trafficking with the Sant’Egidio leaders.
She also met with women who had been victims of trafficking, whom she called “remarkable women who are testaments to strength, faith and perseverance in the face of unspeakable adversity and challenge.”
Afterwards, she said she spoke to them about “their struggles, and how they were able to rebuild their lives.”
During remarks after the meeting, she praised the work of Sant’Egidio.
“The work you do resonates strongly not just here, but throughout the world,” she said.
“We talked about the many different programs that have been successfully launched and developed over many, many years now that have provided support and help to those who need it most, whether it’s the elderly or the disadvantaged, and also victims of human trafficking throughout Africa and the whole world,” – Ivanka continued – “So it was a great privilege to be able to be here and to hear firsthand from these tremendous… leaders about the work that’s being done, what has worked and what has the potential to work better and to be better executed in the future.”
The first daughter’s meeting with the group caused some surprise when it was announced, given her father’s strong stance against immigration, and attempts to limit the number of refugees entering the United States.
Sant’Egidio is a prominent supporter of the rights of migrants and refugees, and has even helped establish a “humanitarian corridor” in cooperation with the Vatican and Italy to fly refugees into the country, so they do not have to risk the perilous journey over the Mediterranean Sea, where thousands of people have drowned trying to reach Europe from Africa and the Middle East.