Vatican police mark 200th anniversary with concert for needy children

Vatican police mark 200th anniversary with concert for needy children

Children greet Pope Francis at the Refugee Camp of St. Sauveur in Bangui Nov. 29, 2016. Credit: L'Osservatore Romano.
Children greet Pope Francis at the Refugee Camp of St. Sauveur in Bangui Nov. 29, 2016. Credit: L'Osservatore Romano.

.- In honor of their bicentenary, the Vatican Gendarmerie have decided to celebrate with an act of mercy: they will host a concert that will be used to fund a children’s hospital in Bangui and earthquake relief efforts in Central Italy.

According to the Gendarme Commander Domenico Gianni, the idea came about as the result of the Pope’s visit to the children’s hospital in Bangui, Central African Republic, during his November 2015 visit, during which he opened the first Holy Door of the Jubilee of Mercy.

The visit to the hospital was “a very strong experience, not only as a man, but as a father,” Gianni told journalists during a Dec. 16 news conference presenting the initiative.

While accompanying the Pope, they saw children in “terrible conditions,” he said. “There were malnourished children...it was a situation that really touched us.”

Gianni, as head of the Vatican Gendarmerie, travels everywhere with the Pope, and so is able to see the reality of the people in each country firsthand.

As a response to the situation in Bangui, the Vatican Gendarmerie has partnered with Italian pop legend Claudio Baglioni, considered one of the greatest singers/songwriters in Italy and who is widely known for his hit song “Avrai,” to put on the concert in honor of their 200th anniversary.

The Gendarmerie Corps was founded by Pope Pius VII in 1816 as the “Pontifical Carabinieri Corps” with the restoration of the State of the Church following the Congress of Vienna. Their primary role is to provide security for the Pope and the public within the territory of Vatican City, in collaboration with the Pontifical Swiss Guard.

The title of the concert project carries the same name as Baglioni’s hit song “Avrai,” and is aimed at raising money to fund both a new pediatric wing in the Bangui hospital, including a malnutrition department, and formation courses for doctors, as well as a center for children in one of the towns devastated by the earthquakes that hit Central Italy earlier this fall.

All of the projects carried out on the Bangui hospital will be modeled after and followed closely by Rome’s Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital, the patients and staff of which met Pope Francis for an audience yesterday.

Set to take place in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall Dec. 17, the concert will feature music by Baglioni himself, who will perform a symphony with 70 different voices, including his own group of 10 musicians and vocalists and the “Giuseppe Verdi” choir of Rome, composed of more than 60 people.

The music will consist of several genres and thematic songs combined with a few Christmas songs. All songs in different languages will be translated and adapted into Italian.

The concert will also coincide with Pope Francis’ 80th birthday, a fact that Baglioni said is “a sign” and “a great gift.” With the concert, they will be able “to have a celebration” for the Pope by offering hope to the poor children of Bangui, and those who lost everything in the Central Italian earthquakes.

He said musicians such as him “need to make ourselves be a little more generous, because we have some privileges in our lives,” and to learn from the children who fight daily against the challenges they face.

Everyone who collaborated in the “Avrai” project with Baglioni met the Pope for a private audience Dec. 14 to show him the motive and goal of the concert, and to give him the first 500,000 euros collected.

Donations have so far been collected through ticket sales for the concert, which sold out quickly, as well as through a special text-message service for those who wanted to contribute, but who for some reason were unable to attend the concert.

Bangi’s new Cardinal, Dieudonne Nzapalainga, was also present at the new conference. He told journalists that when Pope Francis traveled to the Central African Republic in 2015, he did so “to touch human misery.”

“In Central Africa there are many children who want to be cured but can’t be,” he said, noting that children come to be treated by technicians and doctors in tents, rather than an official building.

Pope Francis saw this “misery” firsthand, the cardinal said, calling the Pope’s visit “a blessing” for the entire country. He also thanked the Vatican Gendarmes for their work both during the Pope’s trip and in arranging the concert.

“We have also tried to mobilize Central Africa for this project of solidarity. It’s something that comes from the heart,” he said, noting that “soon it will be Christmas, and this project arrives just in time.”

Although he won’t be able to attend the concert, Pope Francis is expected to give a “long message” to attendees at the beginning, which will likely be read aloud or shown on video.

In his comments to journalists, Gianni said the concert is above all a response to the Pope’s April 2 prayer vigil for the feast of Divine Mercy, when he said that “How nice would it be if as a monument of this Year of Mercy, if there is in every diocese a structural work of mercy: a hospital, a house for the elderly, for abandoned children, a school where there was none, a recovery house for drug addicts.”

“It would be nice if every diocese were to think: what can I leave as a living memory, as a living work of mercy?”

Tags: Vatican, Catholic News, Music, Children, Pope Francis, Bangui