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Meet ‘Brother Martino,’ the oldest pharmacist serving the Pope

.- He is 76 years old and has spent 33 years serving at the Vatican, 21 of which he has spent in the ambulance that follows Popes around. Brother Martin Mendez, known affectionately as “Br. Martino,” is a member of the Order of St. John of God and works at the Vatican Pharmacy. He has served Popes Paul VI, John Paul II and now Benedict XVI. 

Br. Martino is one of the oldest active workers at the Vatican and those who know him say he is a tireless worker. He also has earned a nick-name—“Br. Candy”—because he hands out sweets to everyone, “especially to those who complained about their shift or because they wanted to rest more.” 

After serving as the Pope’s nurse for 25 years, this Spanish monk has spent the last eight years at the Vatican Pharmacy.  He studied nursing in Madrid and as a member of the Order of St. John of God has worked throughout Spain and Bolivia. “I remember one night on the highest lake in the world, Lake Titicaca, at some 4,000 meters. That’s way up there,” he said, recounting his time in Bolivia to a Spanish newspaper.

Amidst his present-day joys he says there is one thing he misses—his spot in the Pope’s ambulance. “When they told me I was too old to sit there and that I should take another job, I was sad.  That ambulance had become my second home.  But later I was happy to know I would be at the Pope’s disposal for any emergency.”

Since Wednesday is his day-off, he is able to take up his otherwise forbidden seat in the ambulance during the Pope’s Wednesday General Audiences.

Br. Martino said he attended to Paul VI before his death, but that he was absent from Rome during the short 33-day reign of Pope John Paul I. Afterwards he was Pope John Paul II’s nurse for many years and was with him during some of the pontiff’s most difficult moments, such as the assassination attempt of May 13, 1981. “I was very close to him and miraculously I did not have to go to the hospital myself,” he said.

Asked when he would retire, Br. Martino said, “What do I know? When the Lord wills it. If you are asking when I will stop working, you can talk to my superiors.”


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