POPE FRANCIS APPOINTS A “PERSONAL HEALTH ASSISTANT” – JESUIT JOURNAL PUBLISHES CONVERSATION BETWEEN POPE AND FELLOW JESUITS IN CANADA

POPE FRANCIS APPOINTS A “PERSONAL HEALTH ASSISTANT”

There was a very interesting one-sentence announcement from the Vatican press office today: “The Holy Father has named Massimiliano Strapetti, nurse coordinator of the Vatican’s Health and Hygiene Department (direzione) as his personal health assistant.”

No further explanation or clarification was provided by the press office or any other source.

What can this mean?

The Vatican – Vatican City – has a health and hygiene center and a remarkable and well-stocked pharmacy with a sizeable staff of pharmacists. To become a pharmacist in Italy requires 5 years of intense studies and then passing a very demanding, rigorous exam.

The Vatican health center is for current employees of Vatican City State and the Roman Curia, as well as for retirees. There is a main administrative office and the center is staffed by dozens of physicians of all specialities, as well as the generic “family doctor.” Doctors usually work here two half days a week, in either morning or afternoon sessions. However, all have their own private studios or offices and many are on full time staff at some of Rome’s hospitals.

There are facilities for x-rays and for Doppler and other exams, though the center is not equipped like a full-fledged hospital. There is no “pronto soccorso” or emergency service, such as would be needed for victims of a serious accident, although it was here that Pope John Paul II was brought immediately after being shot on May 13, 1981, attested to by a floor plaque in the main building entrance.

There is, however, a “guardia medica” on duty from 7am to 8pm. This is a kind of emergency medical office, staffed by 3 or 4 doctors, for issues that are usually minor or for patients who have health questions. If a diagnosis is serious and a person needs to be hospitalized, there is a specific office for that at the health center.

Medical personnel is always available for events in the Paul VI Hall, Vatican Museums, the basilica and St. Peter’s Square.

This may be more information than you need but I want to point out that medical care at the Vatican is quite comprehensive.

Although I do not know for certain, I would hazard a guess that even at 3am, for example, a doctor is on call somewhere.

Certainly for the Holy Father, should such a need arise. And/or for cardinals residing in Vatican City.

Popes have always had their own personal physicians. We probably knew more about Pope John Paul’s doctors than any other pontiff in history. Many of us who have covered the Vatican for years can remember, without looking them up, the names of the doctors who took care of him in 1981.

A physician has always accompanied the popes on apostolic journeys, be they short or long.

Years ago, a friend who was a flight attendant told me a fascinating story when we met for dinner on her overnight stay.

Suzanne was shopping on Rome’s celebrated Via Condotti and wanted to buy an upscale purse. A flight attendant colleague had recommended a leather shop near Via Condotti, so she went to the address provided, walked up for the second floor and found what she called “the most fascinating and beautiful leather shop” in Italy!

The owner became a professor of leather as he showed Suzanne around and explained how purses, suitcases, jewelry boxes, etc. were made. During their conversation he showed her a beautiful piece of workmanship, explaining that it had been ordered by the Vatican for the doctor who travelled with popes! He had just finished it and was about to deliver it.

Suzanne told me it had numerous compartments for whatever a physician might need to put inside. She said every aspect of the physician’s bag was beyond perfect craftsmanship, adding, “it will probably last 100 years.”

I return to the original question: What does it mean that the pope chose a “personal health assistant”?

It is clear from the announcement that Strappeti is a nurse. He will obviously now be working more closely with the papal doctor, Roberto Bernabei.

By the way, Pope Francis has said of Strappeti “he saved my life” as it was Strappeti who, last summer, persuaded the Pope to have colon surgery.

Why did the Pope deem it necessary to have a personal health assistant? Is Strappeti needed for the daily therapy that Pope Francis is undergoing for his ongoing knee issue? Tomorrow, August 5, marks 3 months that we have seen the pope use a wheel chair.

Or is there an underlying health issue with the Holy Father that we know nothing about that Strappetti is to oversee?

I do not like speculation but we know nothing more than what we were told today.

Pope Francis often ends encounters with individuals or groups the same way he ends the Angelus on Sundays, asking people to pray for him.

And that we will do, Holy Father!

JESUIT JOURNAL PUBLISHES CONVERSATION BETWEEN POPE AND FELLOW JESUITS IN CANADA

On Thursday, the Jesuit review La Civilta Cattolica published the exchange between the Jesuit Pope and his fellow Jesuits that took place in the archbishop’s residence in Québec City on the last day of his penitential pilgrimage to Canada. Francis touches on synodality, concern for Haiti, the Church’s love for families, and liturgy as ‘the people of God’s public praise!’

The full text of the conversation, written and published by Fr. Antonio Spadaro, the Editor-in-Chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, can be read here. (vaticannews)

 

ST. PETER’S CHAPEL AND THE U.S. NAVY – IN BRIEF

ST. PETER’S CHAPEL AND THE U.S. NAVY

Several years ago I signed up for daily emails from Atlas Obscura and they are almost always the most interesting of all the emails I receive. I love learning about new things and places and people and tidbits of history. I love reading about places I’ve never visited, where to find the incorrupt bodies of saints in Rome, the history of food (sometime with recipes 2,000 years old!), facts about the world below the sea, the world above us and all places in between. The new and unusual – trivia but not trivial! As Atlas Obscura describes itself: hidden places, incredible history, scientific marvels, and gastronomical wonders on a globe-trotting journey.

Tomorrow is the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, patron saints of the Eternal City, a big holiday in Rome and the Vatican. Whether Atlas Obscura planned this or not, here’s a story about a chapel dedicated to St. Peter from today’s email:

BUILT IN 1901, ST. PETER’S Chapel is the oldest Naval chapel in the United States. It is home to one of the largest collections of Tiffany stained glass windows under one roof and is filled with historic naval memorials.

St. Peter’s Chapel – Vallejo, California – Atlas Obscura

IN BRIEF

POPE FRANCIS HAS ASKED PEOPLE TO PRAY AFTER 46 MIGRANTS WERE FOUND DEAD IN A TEXAS TRAILER TRUCK ON MONDAY. “I sorrowfully heard the news of the tragedy of the #migrants in Texas and #Melilla,” the pope said in a social media post on June 28. “Let us #PrayTogether for these brothers and sisters who died following their hope of a better life; and for ourselves, may the Lord might open our hearts so these misfortunes never happen again.” The migrants were found dead in an abandoned tractor-trailer in San Antonio, Texas on the evening of June 27. Sixteen other people were hospitalized, including four children, according to the Associated Press. Pope Francis asks for prayers after 46 migrants found dead in Texas trailer truck | Catholic News Agency

THE VATICAN HAS RELEASED A VIDEO OF POPE FRANCIS TELLING A GROUP OF BISHOPS FROM BRAZIL THIS WEEK THAT HIS MOBILITY HAS IMPROVED. “I have been able to walk for three days,” the pope said with a wave on June 27 as he walked with the help of a cane across the library of the Apostolic Palace. Pope Francis’ wheelchair could be seen in the back of the room as he greeted the Brazilian bishops. The pope has used a wheelchair for many of his public audiences for nearly two months. The 85-year-old pope’s comment comes after he used a cane to walk a short distance during the closing Mass of the World Meeting of Families on June 25 and across the stage of Paul VI Hall in an audience with Neocatechumenal Way members on June 27. Pope Francis: ‘I have been able to walk for three days’ | Catholic News Agency

UPDATED BULLETIN ON PAPAL HEALTH – PAPAL CONDOLENCES FOR ASSASSINATION OF HAITIAN PRESIDENT

UPDATED BULLETIN ON PAPAL HEALTH

12:23 pm – The following updated statement from Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni contains one change from the previous bulletin. I have put that in italics and the asterisk * is mine: “His Holiness Pope Francis spent a quiet day, eating and moving unassisted. In the afternoon, he wished to express his paternal closeness to the young patients in the nearby paediatric oncology and children’s neurosurgery wards, sending them his affectionate greetings. In the evening he temporarily ran a temperature*. This morning he underwent routine and microbiological examinations, and a chest and abdomen scan, which proved negative. The Holy Father is continuing with his planned treatment and eating by mouth. At this particular moment, he looks toward all those who suffer, expressing his closeness to the sick, especially those most in need of care.”

*The previous bulletin used the words “high temperature.”

PAPAL CONDOLENCES FOR ASSASSINATION OF HAITIAN PRESIDENT

Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin sent the following telegram of condolences in Pope Francis’ name to the Apostolic Nunciature in Haiti for the assassination of Jovenel Moïse, president of Haiti:

“Hearing the news of the heinous assassination of His Excellency Jovenel Moïse, President of Haiti, His Holiness Pope Francis offers his condolences to the Haitian people and to his wife, also seriously injured, whose life he commends to God. Praying to the Father of mercy for the soul of the faithful departed, the Holy Father expresses his sadness and condemns all forms of violence as a means of resolving crises and conflicts. He wishes for the dear Haitian people a future of fraternal harmony, solidarity and prosperity. As a sign of comfort he invokes the abundance of divine blessings on Haiti and all its inhabitants.”

 

POPE FRANCIS EATING, MOVING UNASSISTED: LAB TESTS NEGATIVE

POPE FRANCIS EATING, MOVING UNASSISTED: LAB TESTS NEGATIVE

July 8, 2021 – Statement from Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni on Pope Francis’ continued convalescence at Gemelli Hospital: His Holiness Pope Francis spent a quiet day, eating and moving unassisted. In the afternoon, he wished to express his paternal closeness to the young patients in the nearby paediatric oncology and children’s neurosurgery wards, sending them his affectionate greetings. In the evening he temporarily ran a high temperature. This morning he underwent routine and microbiological examinations, and a chest and abdomen scan, which proved negative. The Holy Father is continuing with his planned treatment and eating by mouth. At this particular moment, he looks toward all those who suffer, expressing his closeness to the sick, especially those most in need of care.

POST-OP PROGRESS OF POPE CONTINUES TO BE REGULAR

POST-OP PROGRESS OF POPE CONTINUES TO BE REGULAR

JULY 7, 2021 – Noon bulletin from Holy See Press Office. Bulletin today given in Italian, English and Spanish: “The post-operative progress of His Holiness Pope Francis continues to be regular and satisfactory. The Holy Father has continued to eat regularly and infusion therapy has been suspended. The final histological examination has confirmed a severe diverticular stenosis with signs of sclerosing diverticulitis. Pope Francis is touched by the many messages and the affection received in these days, and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayer.”

POPE FRANCIS: “POSTOPERATIVE COURSE IS NORMAL”

POPE FRANCIS: “POSTOPERATIVE COURSE IS NORMAL”

A 40-plus word communiqué, an update on the Pope’s post op situation, was released at noon today by the Holy See Press Office. I added the date and posted that on Facebook and Twitter:

July 6, 2021 – 12 noon Rome – Holy See Press Office director Matteo Bruni: His Holiness Pope Francis rested well during the night. This morning he had breakfast, read some newspapers and got up to walk. The postoperative course is regular. Routine follow-up exams are good.

The Vatican website publishes the same information. Today they added a story on the get-well wishes arriving for Pope Francis.

Unless there would be complications or some infection, we expect bulletins to be somewhat brief and matter-of-fact, outlining the pope’s daily routine and progress.

Those of us in the media who experienced Pope John Paul’s various hospitalizations have greatly different memories. The media presence was usually gigantic, especially (as one could well imagine!) after he was shot on May 13, 1981, and in subsequent years. Press Office and hospital bulletins were generally frequent and quite often filled with medical terms that required some research and conversations with doctors who had performed identical surgeries.

I was working for the Vatican Information Service for a number of John Paul’s hospitalizations, as well as at the end of his life, and remember two things about the medical bulletins: 1. The then press office director Joaquin Navarro-Valls, himself a medical doctor, decided that bulletins had to be given out in English as well as Italian, knowing that more people around the world would know English as a first or second language than Italian, and 2. We had to buy an English-Italian medical dictionary!

I was the English language writer and editor at VIS at the time and all those medical translations fell into my hands. I double- and triple-checked the translations and then gave them to Joaquin, also fluent in Italian and English as well as his native Spanish, who gave the go-ahead for a press office bulletin in two languages. VIS daily bulletins were in English and Spanish and over time we added French and Italian.

In the final months, weeks and days of John Paul’s life, translating the press office medical bulletins into English from Italian was in my hands – medical reports, the Pope’s last will and testament and many other documents. It was a heady assignment – and so very sad. Some days I was simply overcome by emotion!

Less information of a strictly medical nature is coming out of the press office and Gemelli hospital. The only danger in less information, rather than more, is having people do research on their own and perhaps coming to conclusions that are not correct.

One thing we know for sure – prayers and get-well wishes are still pouring in from the around the world for a speedy recovery for the Holy Father! To which we add ours!

UPDATED REPORT ON RUMOR OF PAPAL HEALTH

 UPDATED REPORT: See Press Briefing below –

VATICAN DENIES POPE FRANCIS HAS TUMOR

Statement from the Director of the Holy See Press Office

With regard to the unfounded news on the health of the Holy Father, the director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., has issued the following statement:

The circulation of entirely unfounded news regarding the health of the Holy Father by an Italian newspaper is gravely irresponsible and unworthy of attention. Furthermore, as is clearly evident, the Pope is carrying out his very intense activity in an totally normal way.

AT SYNOD PRESS BRIEFING ON WEDNESDAY, Fr. Lombardi said, referring to the original article, that no Japanese doctor ever came to the Vatican to see the Pope, no helicopter ever brought a person to the Vatican. He also mentioned that, next to the article about the papal health, was an interview by the same writer with a woman doctor about tumors. She called Fr. Lombardi from NY, saying she saw the report of a papal tumor, knew absolutely nothing, only that a journalist had called her and asked, in a very generic way, about tumors.

VATICAN DENIES POPE FRANCIS HAS TUMOR

VATICAN DENIES POPE FRANCIS HAS TUMOR

Statement from the Director of the Holy See Press Office

With regard to the unfounded news on the health of the Holy Father, the director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., has issued the following statement:

The circulation of entirely unfounded news regarding the health of the Holy Father by an Italian newspaper is gravely irresponsible and unworthy of attention. Furthermore, as is clearly evident, the Pope is carrying out his very intense activity in an totally normal way.