Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

Cattolica International

A special letter of appreciation to Università Cattolica: FROM POPE FRANCIS

The ever so familiar scent of antiseptic gel clutters the air, clipboards and stethoscopes line the corridors as waves of blue scrubs move in and out of sliding doors visiting patients from one ward to another. Though this past summer there was a very special patient admitted at Policlinico Gemelli University Hospital: Pope Francis. 

The Pope underwent colon surgery at Policlinico Gemelli University Hospital on 4 July 2021. To express his heartfelt gratitude for the care and attention he received during his stay in the hospital, the Pope sent a letter to Professor Franco Anelli, Rector of Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore on July 15, the day after he safely returned to the Vatican. 

Pope Francis renewed his gratitude in light of three important words - remembrance, passion and comfort - which were chosen by the Holy Father during the celebrations of the Holy Mass, held on Friday 5 November, a very special and emotional event marking the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery at Università Cattolica.

“...in today's hurry, amidst a thousand races and continuous worries, we are losing the ability to be moved and to feel compassion, because we are losing this return to the heart, the memory. Without memory, we lose our roots and without roots, we do not grow. It is good for us to nurture the memory of those who have loved us, cared for us, raised us. Today I would like to renew my appreciation for the care and affection I have received here. I believe that in this time of the pandemic, it is good for us to remember even the most painful periods: not to make us sad, but not to forget and to orient our choices in the light of a very recent past." 

The Faculty of Medicine and Surgery at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Rome campus was founded on 5 November 1961 and is affiliated with Policlinico Gemelli University Hospital which opened in 1964. 
Over 2,000 professors, students, administrative staff, doctors, healthcare workers and patients from Università Cattolica's Rome campus and Policlinico Gemelli University Hospital attended the celebrations, gathering in the square in front of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery. 

Dedicated to the memory of Father Agostino Gemelli, founder of Università Cattolica, he planned to create a University that would place humans at the heart of the health system - of research and training activities. And with that, he succeeded. The hospital is the biggest in Rome and one of the most internationally acclaimed healthcare providers in Italy, for its management, organisation, technology and humanisation of the medical field.  
Additionally, Università Cattolica Policlinico Gemelli University Hospital has been ranked number one in Italy and 45th in the world by the World's Best Hospital 2021 ranking compiled every year by the well-renowned American magazine "Newsweek.” The ranking analyses 2,000 hospitals across 25 countries and it takes into consideration the excellence for patient treatments, the number of well-known doctors, the quality of its nursing staff and the availability of innovative technologies. 

Given the state of the art facilities available, the campus and hospital have created synergy between education, research and healthcare for many years, allowing students to put into practice high-quality theoretical preparation. And not just in Italian. Since 2013, Università Cattolica has given students the possibility to undertake a single cycle 6-year degree course in Medicine and Surgery in English, to which the University commemorated its first graduates in 2020.

Professor Franco Anelli, Rector of Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, concluded during the Holy Mass with: "Holy Father, in these difficult times we are constantly comforted and encouraged by your Magisterium, by your gestures and words that have accompanied us in the most painful moments to tell us to look at the evil that challenged us as an opportunity to learn and reflect, grow and improve.” In the course of these sixty years, which fall in the year of the University's centenary, added the Rector, "the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery has made great progress in its teaching and research activities while maintaining a clear and unchanged mission: to unite, as you teach us, the language of the mind, heart and hands, and to place them all at the service of the sick, in whom the image of humanity is reflected."


Following is the full letter sent by Pope Francis translated from Italian to English:
Rector of Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore 

Upon my return home from the hospital, my thoughts turn to you and the University you preside over. These thoughts are of gratitude and affection for the closeness I experienced, for the genuine caring and cordiality expressed in the faces around me, and for the professionalism of all those who took care of me. 

Care comes from the heart. Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore carries in its name a vocation to take care of people. My hospitalisation took place during the year that ‘la Cattolica’ reaches its centenary, celebrating  this anniversary with a phrase that affected me: “a century of the future.” 

The complete and cultural advancement of the person indeed opens doors to the future. In the wards at Gemelli, I have seen firsthand that there is no time for nostalgia or regrets about the past: the suffering flesh of Christ in the sick of all ages and conditions calls for a look showing care and attention, which can instil hope in moments of fatigue and move towards the future.  

I am grateful to have encountered this look in so many faces, to keep it in my heart and to present it to the Lord. And in renewing my gratitude, I send my blessing to you, to your loved  ones and to all those who make up the family of the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, asking that you always have a place for me in your prayers. 

Rome, San Giovanni in Laterano, July 15, 2021

Article featured on Worldbound, edition n.7-2022.