Last year’s makeshift tensile structure is now a veritable prefabricated 330 square-meter facility replicating the structure of a hospital. The “solidarity health clinic” was set up a few days ago in the heart of Saint Peter’s Square on the occasion of the World Day of the Poor established by Pope Francis at the end of the Jubilee. The event is coordinated and promoted in dioceses worldwide by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. We interviewed the Prefect, Msgr. Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council, after the blessing of the facility set up for all those – Italians and foreigners alike – whose life experiences make it difficult for them to access medical care.
A moment of “evangelization, prayer and sharing”, with the last, with the outcast, with the hungry. Thus the Pope defined the World Day of the Poor, now in its second year. How did it go last year and what are the novelties of this year’s event?
Last year it was just the beginning, and it could be said that we practically “improvised” this initiative established by the Pope at the end of the Jubilee of Mercy. Yet it was a huge success, there was enormous participation not only in Rome but also in other dioceses worldwide, within movements, associations, and especially inside the parishes. This year we got to work immediately, and as early as June the Holy Father released his message titled: ” This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him.” This year the mobile health clinic was placed in the heart of Saint Peter’s Square, on the left-hand side of the square, adjacent to the Charlemagne Wing of Bernini’s colonnade, to offer free medical exams to all those in need who normally encounter many difficulties in accessing medical treatment.
It’s a concrete sign of the Pope’s Christian love, which the Pope asked to be expressed here in this square to welcome and embrace – as Bernini’s colonnade does every day with millions of tourists from world countries – all those people experiencing difficult circumstances. The free health care facility will be open from morning to evening, until the square remains open, that is, from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. This year it was decided to extend the opening hours to meet the needs of people who for various reasons prefer to move around in the evening.
The Holy Mass celebrated by the Pope in St.Peter’s Basilica and the lunch with the Poor in the Paul VI Hall are two salient moments of next Sunday’s programme. What are the details of these events?
As relates to Holy Mass with the Holy Father, scheduled at 10:00 a.m., the basilica is already fully booked: there will be 6 thousand poor people accompanied by volunteers, along with representatives of various organizations that have at heart the wellbeing of these needy people. 1 500 of them will be the guests of the Holy Father in the Paul VI Hall for lunch – offered by Rome Cavalieri-Hilton Italia, in conjunction with Tabor charitable trust – while others will be offered lunch by canteens in parishes, universities, and charity organizations that support the initiative. It is not possible to welcome all the guests inside the Vatican for as you know the Paul VI Hall has an uneven surface, thus tables cannot be placed across the whole area.
It will be a simple, festive lunch, which after Rome will be “replicated” in various dioceses where assistance to poor people is already a part of the daily activities, but on the Day they will act in unison to give the poor, once again, a central role inside the Church community. The organization of the Day has become possible also thanks to the support of several benefactors. For example, the historical Rummo pasta manufacturer will distribute 9 thousands packs of pasta to the poor and to charities, amounting to 4.5 tons of pasta.
A prayer vigil for volunteers will take place on Saturday evening, at 8 pm, at St. Lawrence Outside the Walls. What is their “specific weight”, in the Pope’s diocese?
The volunteers, who carry out their daily work in silence, offer some of their time to provide assistance in places where they are most needed. They are an irreplaceable patrimony and here in Saint Peter’s they carry out their services inside the square and in the area of the collonade, especially for the homeless. On top of this, many of them go around the city of Rome to meet requests for help in areas frequented by people without a roof over their head, like the Termini train station area. In the health clinic for the needy set up for the World Day of the Poor, all workers are volunteers. This includes doctors – from the Gemelli General Hospital in Rome, San Giovanni- Addolorata Hospital and Tor Vergata medical campus – as well as Italian Red Cross Voluntary Nurses who will welcome patients at the entrance all day long and perform a first medical assessment with a physician, after which the patient will be directed to one of eight specialized medical wards: general medicine, cardiology, infectious diseases, gynecology and obstetrics, podiatry, dermatology, rheumatology, ophthalmology, in addition to the clinical analysis laboratory, open from 8 to 13. Those who have blood tests can pick up the results the following day in person or ask the associations that regularly assist them to pick them up. An ambulance will be always present and available outside the health Clinic for all those in need of special treatment that can’t be administered inside the clinic itself.