The Vatican's helipad: Transporting popes, saving kid's lives

The Vatican's helipad: Transporting popes, saving kid's lives

A helicopter carries Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI as he officially retires in Vatican City on February 28, 2013. Credit: Getty Images News/Getty Images.
A helicopter carries Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI as he officially retires in Vatican City on February 28, 2013. Credit: Getty Images News/Getty Images.

.- Correction: July 21, 2015 9:28 am MST. Due to an erroneous Vatican source, this article originally said that the Vatican's helicopter was being used by the hospital. It is in fact the Vatican's helifacilities.

One of Europe's best pediatric hospitals, Bambino Gesu Children's Hospital in Rome, can now use the Vatican’s helipad to transport patients, personnel and medical equipment in emergencies. 

The agreement was announced July 17th by the hospital and the Governatorate of the Vatican City State, and is part of a bigger initiative to use the helipad within a regional network for emergency management. 

“We are grateful to the Holy See, the Secretary of State and the Governatorate in particular, in the person of the SCV's Secretary General, Bishop Fernando Vergez Alzaga, for this opportunity, which is given to the Bambino Gesù hospital, and especially to the many young patients from all over Italy, who unfortunately need urgently to reach our hospital,” Bambino Gesu President Mariella Enoc said Friday, according to Vatican Radio.  

“It is an important gesture of charity that responds to a basic health need: the physical proximity between the Vatican City State and our seat on the Janiculum Hill, in fact, will significantly shorten transport times, contributing in many cases to saving the lives of children,” she added. 

The Vatican City Heliport is a small, rectangular landing pad in the Vatican Gardens and is sometimes used to transport the Pope and other heads of state on short trips away from the Vatican, and to Castle Gandolfo, the pope’s summer residence. It was first used in 1976 by Pope Paul VI.  

Bambino Gesu (which translates to the child Jesus) is the largest pediatric hospital and research center in Europe. It has a child-centered, welcoming approach and operates on the moral and ethical principles of the Catholic faith.

The hospital was built in 1869 and is the oldest pediatric hospital in Italy. Owned by the Holy See and known as the Pope’s hospital, Bambino Gesu also serves children from all over the world. The Holy Father is a popular figure at the hospital, where children write him letters and know many details of his life, including words from his homilies and facts about his home country and favorite soccer team. 

In December 2013, Pope Francis visited the hospital for Christmas, after receiving drawings from the children at the hospital asking for a visit. Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI were all known to visit the hospital. During his first visit in September 2005, during the first three months of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI said he came in order “to bear witness to the love of Jesus for children.”

In 2010, Bambino Gesu doctors performed the world’s first transplant of a permanent artificial heart into a 15-year old boy, and since 2013 has been conducting research on a rare heart condition known as Long QT syndrome. 

Tags: Pope Francis, Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital, Vatican helicopter

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