The “pope's hospital”: 100 years of serving sick children

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It was 1869 in Rome, when the royal Salviati family decided to dedicate their lives to charity. In a small house, they set up four beds for sick children, entrusting their care to nuns, who they called “cappellone” because of the large hats they wore.

This house would later become the first pediatric hospital in Italy. All thanks to the generosity shown by this royal family that was also instilled in their children.

President, Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital

There is the anecdote of the children of the Duchess Arabella, as she was called, who made their own piggy bank where they put money for the most destitute, for sick children and the most needy people. At that moment, you can see, precisely, that gesture of donation, which is important. We are really grateful to the Salviati family, because they showed this deep kindness and sensibility.

The family then asked the Vatican for permission to use the name it has today, the Bambino Gesù. This would later become known as the “pope's hospital.”

President, Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital

Those responsible for this little house asked the Vatican for permission to use the name “Bambino Gesù” and Pope Pius IX authorized its use. This hospital was born from the intuition of a family as sensitive as the Salviati family.
We call it the “pope's hospital” to explain how this closeness between the hospital, health problems, the loneliness of the pain of caregiving and the message of the Catholic Church are so closely intertwined.

Pediatric care grew over the years and more sites were opened—soon, over 33,000 children were served. But the key date is 1924, when the Salviati family wanted to donate the hospital to the Vatican. This year, 2024, marks the centenary of that moment.

In these 100 years, the Bambino Gesù has become one of the best pediatric hospitals in the world. Its specialists have treated complex cases that have been closely followed by the parents of the children.

For example, this operation saved the lives of two Siamese twins, who were joined at the skull. The procedure lasted 30 hours and involved a team of 30 doctors and medical staff. After this successful intervention, the twins were baptized by Pope Francis.

But there was a specific case that impressed the president of the Bambino Gesù: that of a French child whose last hope, according to the doctors, was the “pope's hospital.”

President, Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital

At one point, we were told that there was a child who had a serious tumor, a neuroblastoma, I think, and the French doctors themselves told me: “Hope is the Bambino Gesù of Rome.” So, we took in this child who unfortunately was going to die. The child is still alive today.

This is the story of a hospital that was born by and for charity. And the Bambino Gesù continues to pursue this purpose every day.


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