.- During a visit this morning to Rome's "Bambino Gesu" pediatric hospital, near the Vatican, Pope Benedict praised hospital workers and asked that the "Church herself may be the heart of the hospital", and that it would draw strength from Jesus, present in the Eucharist--the "gentle Doctor of body and soul."
Bambino Gesu is officially the property of the Holy See and is internationally-renowned for its care of children, both in the field of medical care and of biomedical research.
During his time, the Holy Father visited a number of the hospital's departments and visited briefly with many sick children and their families.
He then continued to the center's lecture hall where he greeted the hospital president, members of the administrative council, the medical staff and the civil authorities.
Prior to the Pope's address, hospital president Francesco Silvano recalled "Bambino Gesu's" history, noting that it was founded in 1869, thanks to "a charitable gesture by the noble family of Salviati (who) ... 80 years ago donated it to Pope Pius XI. Since then the hospital has been considered an organ of the Holy See, under the governance and control of the Secretariat of State."
Speaking to the group, Pope Benedict explained that he had chosen the Bambino Gesu for his first hospital visit as Pope, for two main reasons: "because this institution belongs to the Holy See," and "so that I too can bear witness to Jesus' love for children. ... In everyone who suffers, even more so if they are small and defenseless, there is Jesus Who welcomes us and awaits our love."
He highlighted how work in the hospital "calls for great willingness and constant efforts to increase available resources, it requires attention, a spirit of sacrifice, patience and disinterested love, so that mothers and fathers may find here a place that breathes hope and serenity, even in moments of acute apprehension."
"Here you concern yourselves", he continued, "with ensuring excellent treatment, not just from the point of view of healthcare, but also in human terms. This approach, which is valid for all healthcare centers, must especially distinguish those that are inspired by evangelical principles."
The Pope thanked hospital personnel for their part "in this work of such great human value, which also represents a most effective form of apostolate," the Pope said: "May the Church herself be the heart of the hospital: from Jesus, truly present in the Eucharist and the gentle Doctor of bodies and souls, draw the spiritual strength to comfort and cure the patients here."
In conclusion, Pope Benedict said that in the hospital it is possible "to offer concrete and effective witness of the Gospel, in contact with suffering humanity. Here, through deeds, the power of Christ is proclaimed, Who with His spirit heals and transforms human existence. Let us pray that, together with the cure, the love of Jesus is imparted to the young guests."