Braving the August heat, the young people who participated en masse in the prayer vigil in Circus Maximus with Pope Francis poured into St. Peter’s Square the next day, Sunday 12th August. At the end of the two days spent with the Pope the forecourt of the Basilica and Via della Conciliazione were ‘invaded’ by thousands of the faithful from some 300 Italian dioceses. They arrived under the banner of “Along a thousand roads, to Rome”, ahead of the Synod on Youth next October.
As time went on the temperature inevitably rose, as did the requests for assistance at the Order of Malta’s First Aid Post in St. Peter’s Square. Situated in the Braccio di Carlo Magno, a few steps from the Baslica’s forecourt, the centre had opened at 6 am to serve pilgrims crowding into the square to be near the Holy Father. During the entire day, the First Aid Post personnel – six doctors, two nurses and 10 first responders – swiftly and proficiently assisted over 30 people affected by the extreme heat.
For this ‘special’ occasion, the Order’s Grand Hospitaller, Dominique de La Rochefoucauld-Montbel had also wanted to be present. He was already in the First Aid Post when it opened, and offered his contribution to the smooth running of the service up to the end of the event.
This first-aid service was first provided during the 1950 Holy Year under Pope XII and since then has been assisting pilgrims 365 days a year in St. Peter’s Square. Particular attention is paid to women with young children with a special area created inside the facility for feeding, changing and caring for infants.