By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis paid a visit to a children's hospital outside Rome Friday afternoon, as part of his "Friday of Mercy" initiative. During his visit to the Bambino Gesu Children’s Hospital in the seaside town of Palidoro some 26 kms north-west of Rome, the Pope visited the various wards and greeted the hospitalized children along with their families.
The Palidoro Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital, a 120-bed facility, is one of the three branches of the main hospital in Rome, close to the Vatican. The other hospitals are in St. Paul Outside the walls in Rome and at Santa Marinella, on the seaside, further up north beyond Palidoro.
Nearly 150-year history
The Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital was begun in 1869 by Duke Scipione Salviati and his wife who were moved by the condition of children who were treated in general hospitals. Their gesture invited others to contribute and helped the growth of the hospital. On 24 January 1924 the hospital was donated to the Holy See. Since then it has been popularly known as the Pope’s hospital.
Today the hospital is part of the network of the National Healthcare System in the city of Rome. It has become a significant point of reference for paediatrics at the national level and treats children not only from Rome and Italy, but also from neighbouring European countries.
Several Popes have visited Bambino Gesù Hospital, with Pope St. John XXIII visting the main centre in 1958. He made it again at Christmas in 1962. Blessed Pope Paul VI followed next with a visit in 1968, and ten years later started the Palidoro centre.
Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict have also visited the hospital. Pope Francis first visited Bambino Gesù Hospital on 21 December 2013.