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The dream of a Franciscan doctor

· Fifty years of the Gemelli Polyclinic ·

Fr Agostino Gemelli, founder of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, included the Department of Medicine and Surgery in his initail plan for the university. But the Franciscan's dream was not realized until the 1960s when Pius XII began to put his plan into action.

Fr Gemelli died on 15 July 1959 and the Department of Medicine opened to students in Rome two years later, on 5 November 1961, in a memorable inauguration which included Pope John XXIII; Cardinal Montini, Archbishop of Milan; as well as members of the scientific, political and ecclesial world and the heads of the department of the University in Milan.

For the occasion Pope John, Cardinal Montini, and Francesco Vito, President of the university from 1959 to 1965, all gave addresses in Latin. In November 1961 construction began on the Polyclinic which, according to the plan, should have opened in 1964.

The initial idea was to build a hospital with approximately 2,000 beds. This enabled them to open all the departments necessary for a university polyclinic and contribute to improving the chronic shortage of beds that beset Rome.

In May 1964 the first patients came to the medicine and surgery wards which had just opened. And, then, on 10 July of that year the hospital officially opened and Cardinal Vicar Luigi Traglia delivered a message to the polyclinic – named after Fr Gemelli – by written Pope Montini. The message underlined the mysterious redemptive power of suffering, citing a famous phrase by Augustine from "De civitate Dei" : perdidistis utilitatem calamitatis, et miserrimi facti estis”.

The newly elected Pope John Paul II went to the Polyclinic to see his friend, Bishop Deskur. That was the beginning of his special relationship to the hospital. In 1996, joking about his health, he said: “Vatican One is in St Peter's Square, Vatican Two is in Castel Gandolfo, Vatican Three is now Gemelli Polyclinic”. 

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St. Peter’s Square

Sept. 25, 2018

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