By Robin Gomes
With the coronavirus emergency still not over altogether, the Santa Marta Paediatric Dispensary in the heart of Vatican City began taking all the necessary precautions on June 3, to re-start its services for needy children and pregnant women.
"In a few days everything will be back to normal as before," said volunteers at the Dispensary. One of them, Valentina Giacometti, said, "The Dispensary must necessarily offer a sign of presence," adding they are close to those who are currently experiencing the greatest economic and social difficulties.
New mothers from all over the world come to Santa Marta Paediatric Dispensary, which is part of the activities of the Office of Papal Charities, the Holy See’s department charged with exercising charity to the poor in the name of the Pope.
In the past few months under lockdown, the Dispensary was providing assistance by phone. From now on, access to the services will be regulated in keeping with health protocols, especially physical distancing. Booking an appointment via telephone is needed to avoid many arriving together at the same time.
Warmth with restraint
For Valentina, the biggest difficulty is not being able to hug the children. However, she said, they would learn to communicate with their eyes above the masks. Under the limitations, they will try to maintain the familiar warmth and playful atmosphere that have always marked the environment where specialist doctors follow mothers and children throughout their growth.
The Holy Family welcomes
The service, “A cradle for you”, will continue on the ground floor to accompany the expectant women to the delivery room. At the entrance of the Dispensary, just past Vatican City’s 'Perugino' entrance, is a garden in bloom at this time - a clear message of welcome.
The emblem of the Dispensary, an image of the Holy Family, stands out on top of the door in welcome.
The Santa Marta Paediatric Dispensary pays special attention to those without Italy’s National Health Service Card, with which one can avail of Italian welfare health services.
Valentina explained that very often families arrive at the Dispensary by word of mouth and through the parish network.
For a first interview and an appointment, one needs simply to visit its website and make a phone call to the number: 06/69884906.
Nearly 100 years of service
The Santa Marta Paediatric Dispensary was born amid the hardships that followed the end of World War I. It was started on May 8, 1922, by Pope Pius XI, who entrusted it to the sisters of the Daughters of Charity of San Vincenzo de Paul to take charge of feeding the poor children and the children of the war.
In July 2008, Pope Benedict XVI made it a foundation, with its own statutes. Currently, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the Papal Almoner or almsgiver who heads the Office of Papal Charities, is the foundation’s president.
Today, the doctors of Rome’s Bambino Gesù Hospital, the Saints Peter and Paul Association, private and other hospitals of the city charity together with lay volunteers offer free service to the Dispensary, which will mark its centenary in 2022.