ROME – In the spirit of Christmas giving, Pope Francis on Saturday opened a new medical center for the poor and homeless near the Vatican, offering emergency and first aid services to pilgrims and needy persons who find themselves in need of medical help.
The new “Mother of Mercy” medical clinic was recently finished and sits under the Bernini colonnade in St. Peter’s Square, replacing the former San Martino center opened in 2016.
According to a Dec. 22 communique from the papal almoner’s office, headed by Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the clinic is a gift from Pope Francis to the homeless this Christmas, and it follows other similar services provided to the poor and needy in the area, including showers and a barbershop.
Recently finished, the clinic is overseen by the Governorate of Vatican City and the Vatican office for Healthcare Services and is located in a small space previously occupied by the Vatican Post Office. The new location, tucked away behind the colonnades and metal detectors allowing entrance into St. Peter’s Basilica, consists of three separate rooms for medical visits, an office for the clinic director, two bathrooms and a waiting room.
Each of the rooms is also equipped with new medical machinery and hygiene tools allowing for full exams and analysis of patients who come in.
The clinic will be open three days a week: Monday, Thursday and Saturday, with a podiatrist (foot specialist) available on Monday mornings. Other services available will be basic emergency and first aid care for both the homeless in the area, and also pilgrims who need medical assistance during papal audiences and events.
Staff at the clinic, similar to the San Martino clinic, will consist of volunteer doctors, specialists and healthcare personnel from the Holy See, from Rome’s Tor Vergata University, from the Italian Association of Medicine and Solidarity, and the Italian Podiatrist Association.
Both training and internship programs will be available at the clinic for undergraduate and graduate students at Tor Vergata who are interested in signing up.
Since he took office, Francis has made a strong effort to reach out to the poor and needy around the Vatican, inviting the homeless to concerts and offering them tours of the Vatican museums, day trips to the beach, lunches, and medical and hygiene services.
Most recently, he set up a makeshift mobile medical center in the middle of St. Peter’s Square in honor of the Nov. 18 World Day of the Poor, allowing poor and needy to come for free checkups and evaluations from specialists. Francis made an unannounced visit to the clinic, as he has typically done for similar occasions in the past, taking time to speak to both patients and volunteer medical staff.
In June of this year Francis gave Krajewski, who oversees papal charities and whose only mission is service to the poor, a red hat as a cardinal, signaling just how serious he takes his commitment to a “poor Church for the poor.”