Vatican lets nearby pediatric hospital use its helipad 24/7

AP News
Posted: Jul 17, 2015 9:48 AM
Vatican lets nearby pediatric hospital use its helipad 24/7

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican's helipad is going to be getting a lot busier, for a good cause.

The Vatican on Friday signed an agreement with Rome's pediatric hospital to let it use the pope's helipad for emergency transport of patients and organs, around the clock.

The Holy See-owned Bambin Gesu, Europe's largest pediatric hospital and research center, is located just up the hill from the Vatican.

In a statement, hospital president Mariella Enoc said using the Vatican's helipad will greatly reduce transport time, "contributing in many cases to saving the lives of children."

Enoc said a key player in the deal was Domenico Giani, the pope's chief bodyguard, who is known for the gentle way he holds children up to the pope to be kissed whenever Francis is out in public.

Francis was "overjoyed" by the agreement, the statement said.

Francis rarely uses the helipad, which is located in the Vatican gardens. Previous popes would frequently fly by helicopter to go back and forth from the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. Francis has decided not to use the estate, preferring to spend his summers in the same Vatican hotel where he lives.