A busy time in the Order of Malta’s First Aid Post
Soon after dawn on 4th September over 120,000 people began to file into St. Peter’s Square, via della Conciliazione and the streets around the Vatican to attend the ceremony for the canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Presided over by Pope Francis, this event was the high point of the entire Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. Nineteen years after her death, the sister who called herself “a pencil in God’s hand” was proclaimed saint to jubilant applause from the crowd.
The intense heat of over 30°C meant that the volunteer doctors, nurses and paramedics working in the Order of Malta’s First-Aid Post in St. Peter’s Square, open since 5.30 a.m., were kept very busy. “We treated over 100 people,” said Dr. Andrea Simili, “most of them suffering from heatstroke, but fortunately only a few had to be taken to hospital. The others were cared for in our First-Aid Post, which was often full up. Luckily we also had mobile posts in St. Peter’s Square, helping us to intervene rapidly”.
An example for the volunteers
In proclaiming Mother Teresa a saint, Pope Francis said: “Her mission to the urban and existential peripheries remains for us today an eloquent witness to God’s closeness to the poorest of the poor. Today, I pass on this emblematic figure of womanhood and of consecrated life to the whole world of volunteers: may she be your model of holiness!”. And later: “May this tireless worker of mercy help us increasingly to understand that our only criterion for action is gratuitous love, free from every ideology and all obligations, offered freely to everyone without distinction of language, culture, race or religion”.
Jubilee for Volunteers
The Jubilee of Volunteers and Workers of Mercy was celebrated on 3rd and 4th September. The Order of Malta’s volunteers offered a first-aid service for the thousands of pilgrims and volunteers gathered in the gardens of Castel Sant’Angelo.
The First-Aid Post
The Order of Malta has had a First-Aid Post in St. Peter’s Square for over 40 years, in cooperation with the Directorate of Health and Hygiene of the Vatican City State. The post is open seven days a week (Wednesdays and Sundays, the days of the Papal Audiences, are the busiest). The staff consists of 92 Order of Malta doctors and volunteers. These are joined by some 2000 of the Order’s volunteers who are assisting pilgrims in the four major Roman basilicas this Jubilee Year.